Best Overall Production Award-winning cast of Les Misérables performs “One Day More” at the 9th Annual Shuler Hensley Awards on April 20, 2017 at the Cobb Energy Performing Arts Center. (Photo courtesy Ben Rose/ArtsBridge)

Best Overall Production Award-winning cast of Les Misérables performs “One Day More” at the 9th Annual Shuler Hensley Awards on April 20, 2017 at the Cobb Energy Performing Arts Center. (Photo courtesy Ben Rose/ArtsBridge)

It was a big night for Heritage High School (HHS) and for the arts in Rockdale County Public Schools (RCPS) at the 9th Annual Georgia High School Musical Theatre Awards, also known as the Shuler Hensley Awards, as the Patriot Players’ production of Les Misérables won the top award of the evening – Best Overall Production.

HHS senior Ramone Nelson also won Lead Actor for his role as Jean Valjean and performed “Bring Him Home” at the awards show. He will travel to New York City in June to participate in the National High School Musical Theatre Awards.

Leading Actor Award winner and Heritage High School senior Ramone Nelson performs “Bring Him Home” from Les Misérables at the 9th Annual Shuler Hensley Awards on April 20, 2017 at the Cobb Energy Performing Arts Center. (Photo courtesy Ben Rose/ArtsBridge)

Leading Actor Award winner and Heritage High School senior Ramone Nelson performs “Bring Him Home” from Les Misérables at the 9th Annual Shuler Hensley Awards on April 20, 2017 at the Cobb Energy Performing Arts Center. (Photo courtesy Ben Rose/ArtsBridge)

The Shuler Awards, fashioned after Broadway’s Tony Awards, celebrates excellence in high school musical theatre. The 9th annual awards show was produced by ArtsBridge at the Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre on April 20, 2017 and televised by Georgia Public Broadcasting.

In her acceptance speech for Best Overall Production, Les Misérables Director and Academy for Visual and Performing Arts at HHS Instructor Michelle Thorne quoted Victor Hugo, “Wherever misery and ignorance exists in the world, stories such as ‘Les Misérables ‘ must be told.” She thanked the casts, crews, teachers, families, and communities that support high school theater. “Thank you for making high school theater happen! It’s not just a good idea, it’s the hope for our world.”

As one of six Overall Production Award nominees, the cast of HHS’s Les Misérables performed “One Day More” at the awards show, bringing the house to its feet in a standing ovation. HHS also had nominations in Music Direction (Terrance Green), Featured Performer (Mekhi Hamm as Marius), Ensemble and an honorable mention in Lighting (Fenna Henderson).

Salem High School (SHS) students Ally Denhart-Fung and Naz Harvey and HHS students Lathan Roberts and Malaikia SimsWinfrey performed in the Shuler Student Ensemble at the awards show. SHS student Brionne Butler was chosen to serve as a production assistant in the S.T.A.R. Council. HHS student Ariana Hardaway received the Performers Warehouse Summer Intensive Scholarship.

Academy of Visual and Performing Arts at Heritage High School Instructor and Les Misérables Director Michelle Thorne accepts the award for Best Overall Production at the 9th Annual Shuler Hensley Awards on April 20, 2017 at the Cobb Energy Performing Arts Center. (Photo courtesy Ben Rose/ArtsBridge

Academy of Visual and Performing Arts at Heritage High School Instructor and Les Misérables Director Michelle Thorne accepts the award for Best Overall Production at the 9th Annual Shuler Hensley Awards on April 20, 2017 at the Cobb Energy Performing Arts Center. (Photo courtesy Ben Rose/ArtsBridge

Thorne said, “Winning the Shuler Award associates the Academy for Performing and Visual Arts at Heritage with the excellence and commitment to the arts in our schools that ArtsBridge represents. I am at once humbled and proud to be a part of a high school theatre group such as the Heritage High School Patriot Players whose goal is to create an ensemble on stage and in our community. High school theatre is about so much more than what happens on stage.”

HHS Principal Greg Fowler said, “We are very excited that our students and staff were recognized for their outstanding talents on such a big stage. Our school has a long history of top quality theatre productions, celebrating 40 years of Patriot Players this year. The addition of our Academy for Performing and Visual Arts specialty program has brought the talent and dedication to theatre to a whole new level, which was affirmed on-stage at the Shuler awards. I am both proud and appreciative of the students, staff and parents involved with fine arts at Heritage High School.”

This year, the HHS Patriot Players family celebrates its 40th Anniversary with a production of Phantom of the Opera, April 27May 7. HHS Patriot Players alumni are invited to a reception at the school April 29 at 2 p.m., featuring keynote speaker Chris Belcher, a Broadcast Publicist for Walt Disney Studios and HHS alum. An Alumni Picnic will be held May 6 at 2 p.m.

The Academy for Performing and Visual Arts at Heritage High School was founded in 2014 for students with exceptional talent in the arts. Its goal is to develop and nurture talented young artists for successful vocations, avocations and advocacy in the arts through extensive training programs and classes in dance, drama or technical theatre, instrumental music, visual arts, and vocal music while maintaining high academic achievement. For more information on the Academy and other Specialty and Choice Programs at RCPS, please visit www.rockdaleschools.org/specialty