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Midvale Journal

Winning Hillcrest theatre troupe ready for the Big Apple

Jul 25, 2018 12:52PM ● By Julie Slama

Hillcrest High theatre students won the Utah High School Musical Theatre awards, earning its second triple crown in theatre. (Josh Long/Hillcrest High School)

By Julie Slama | [email protected] 

State theatre — first place. 

State musical theatre — best musical. 

Shakespeare competition — first place sweepstakes with a perfect score.

“It’s what they call a triple crown in high school theatre,” Hillcrest High School director Josh Long said. “It’s pretty crazy, but quite an honor.”

Only one other time recently, in 2012, has there been a triple crown winner. According to Long, the students who accomplished that were also from Hillcrest. 

Add in winning region theatre and stage crew director Giselle Gremmert being named teacher of the year by the Utah Advisory Council of Theatre Teachers, and even Long admits it was quite a season for Hillcrest.

However, he isn’t complacent. Long wants his students to learn from the best and will take his productions company and stage crew to New York City in August to study theatre. 

“This isn’t a sightseeing trip,” he said. “We want to motivate them, to have them understand what they can strive for, so we can work for that all year.” 

During the week of Aug. 13, 57 students will meet with professional actors, dancers, set crews and others to gain an understanding of being a professional in the theatre world.  

They also will see about eight shows, including “The Band’s Visit,” winner of eight Tony Awards including this year’s best musical, best original score and leading actor and actress in a musical. Other shows include “Carousel,” which won two Tony Awards for best featured actress in a musical and best choreography; “My Fair Lady,” which won the Tony for best costume design in a musical this year; “Sweeny Todd,” and others. 

Before and after each show, they will talk about their expectations and interpretations of the performers, set and show for a better understanding of the productions, Long said.

“We want to give them the best possible education in theatre which means seeing the best on Broadway,” he said. 

This will help as students prepare for their upcoming season, with “Hairspray” on the Husky stage Nov. 15-19. That will be followed by “Sunday in the Park with George,” Jan. 24-26, 2019 and Agatha Christie’s “The Witness for the Prosecution,” March 14-16. The season ends with “Copperfield,” based on the 1850 classic “David Copperfield” by Charles Dickens, on May 16-18. All shows begin at 7 p.m. and tickets are available through, with season tickets available for purchase, Nov. 1.

“We have a diverse season that will provide great experiences for the kids,” he said, adding that students will be auditioning for “Hairspray” in the second week of school after many of them have been preparing and researching for the show this summer. 

Last year’s fall musical “Les Misérables” is amongst Long’s favorites, which, at the state musical theatre awards, not only won best musical and best set design, but best actor for senior Bennett Chew. In June, he traveled to New York as Utah’s best actor as Utah’s representative in “The Jimmy Awards.” 

“We came back in April at the ceremony and performed the first act finale, ‘One Day More,’ so we could showcase as much of the leads and cast as possible,” Long said, adding that he had about 90 percent of the 250 cast members available to perform. “It was really special since they performed at the new Eccles Theater and it brought together the cast who hadn’t performed it in six months. The acoustics were amazing.”

That followed their state championship, the first 6A title in state history. 

“We had about 100 students in 25 pieces that added to the first place sweepstakes win,” Long said. “It’s our fifth state title in seven years, but we didn’t win last year. It’s good that students realize they need to work hard; success is not guaranteed.”

Amongst students who placed at state were seniors Luke Morley and his student coach sophomore Joseph Tew, who won first place in dramatic monologue; senior Nikolas Vidal and student coach junior Joshua Talbot, who won first place in humorous monologue; and senior Spencer Sanders won best actor in a play for his role in “Watch on the Rhine” by Lillian Hellman.

Earlier in the year, Hillcrest won 6A region with first place in a one-act play; best actress in one-act play by senior Cedi Christensen; best actor in a one-act play by Sanders; best supporting actress in a one-act play by senior Annee Burton; first place dramatic monologue by sophomore Karlie Dowdling, coached by sophomore Sophia Paradis; second place dramatic monologue by Morely and Tew; third place dramatic monologue by senior Gloria Swenson, coached by sophomore Jocelyn Casasola; first place classical scene senior Maddie Elledge and senior Sterling Larson, coached by senior Misha Cottam; second place classical scene by sophomore Sarah Filek, junior Kami Loertscher and senior Collin Voeller, coached by sophomore Sydney Hurst; third place classical scene by sophomore Frankie Otis and senior Madison Parker, coached by senior Gabriel Aina; first place pantomime by junior Grace Kratz and sophomore Eliza Luker, coached by sophomore Allie Jones; second place pantomime by freshman Elizabeth Martin and sophomore Mikey Varanakis, coached by freshman Karoleena Andrews and junior Ryleigh Smith; third place pantomime by senior Syncere Bradford and senior Matthew Olschewski, coached by freshman Lizzy Campbell and freshman Emma Cox; third place humorous monologue Vidal, coached by Talbot; second place humorous monologue by senior Sophia Luker, coached by junior McKayla Nelson; first place contemporary scene by sophomore Coleson Eldredge and Sanders, coached by sophomore Ashley Selander and second place musical theatre by Chew, coached by freshman Ethan Kendrick. 

In addition to winning the sweepstakes at the 41st annual Shakespeare Competition, hosted by the Utah Shakespeare Festival and Southern Utah University, two Hillcrest teams tied for the top award in duo/trio scenes; Elledge tied for first place in the monologue competition and Hillcrest placed third in ensemble.