No one wins like Gaston

Junior nominated for school’s first theater award


Ellie Ritter

On Tuesday, the cast of Decatur’s production of “Beauty and the Beast” received a pleasant surprise when junior Anderson McKiernan was nominated for Best Supporting Actor for this year’s Shuler Awards.

An awards ceremony fashioned after the Tonys, the Shuler Awards recognize the best high school musical programs across Georgia. Every year, six nominees are selected for 18 different categories along with four other students receiving an honorable mention.

This year, the cast of “Beauty and the Beast” gathered to watch the nominations. According to McKiernan, who played the narcissistic villain Gaston, the whole cast was giddy to see which nominations they might receive.

“There was a lot of excitement because we’ve never been nominated for anything before,” he said. “Still, we felt really good about this year’s show, and so we were hopeful that we’d get something.”

And they did – McKiernan received the school’s first nomination for his performance. When he heard, he “couldn’t help but smile ear-to-ear.”

McKiernan and sophomore Khadija Hutson interact on stage. McKiernan’s character, Gaston, repeatedly tries to court Belle (Hutson) despite her rejections. Photo courtesy of Keson Graham.

“My heart just about stopped,” he said. “It was one of those moments where I could just look back on all the work I had done and know it was worth it.”

Director and theater teacher Amy Rawlins was ecstatic, but not shocked at McKiernan’s nomination.

“To be honest, I did have a gut feeling that he would be nominated,” she said. “Everyone was talking about how incredible he was, and so I knew that the judges had to have seen that too.”

McKiernan wasn’t the only one to get recognition, though. Sophomore Scott Johnson, who played the Beast, received honorable mention for his leading role.

Sophomore Scott Johnson also received a nomination for his lead role as the Beast. Last year, Johnson played the lead in the musical “Once on this Island.” Photo courtesy of Keson Graham.

Additionally, chorus and musical theater teacher Elise Eskew-Sparks received honorable mention for Music Direction and Orchestra Direction. Rawlins received honorable mention for Choreography, and teacher Chris Davis received honorable mention for Set Design.

Rawlins believes the nomination and honors are well deserved. She sees it as a reflection of the progress the theater department has made.

“This is only our fifth musical ever, and only our second being entered into the awards program,” Rawlins said. “Because our program is still relatively new, the students have to have the drive, focus and determination it takes to want to be great.From teachers, parents, volunteers, everyone has helped get us to where we are today.”

Even the short scenes required a lot of choreography. “Anything with a group took a lot of coordination,” McKiernan said. Photo courtesy of Keson Graham.

Over the next few years, Rawlins said, she hopes the students will look at this nomination as a goal they, too, can strive to achieve.

“We’re looking forward to going even further and grabbing more and more nominations and awards in the future,” Rawlins said.

While McKiernan is excited to see whether he wins, he’s mostly glad to be in good company.

“These other productions are top-tier, so even if I don’t win, I’m just glad to be among the ranks,” he said.

Watch the Shuler Awards on April 27 on GPB to see how McKiernan fares.

Contact Ellie Ritter at [email protected].