2012-07-05 / Front Page
Paper Mill honors SWMHS grad
SAYREVILLE — At one point in the musical “Jekyll and Hyde,” the eponymous character breaks into a song titled “Confrontation,” during which he battles both sides of his personality, switching from one to the other.
It is this song that Roberta Ferlita believes won her son, Michael, a Rising Star Award from the Paper Mill Playhouse.
“He sang both parts and I was in awe,” she said. “I was in awe that powerful voice could come out of him.”
Ferlita, 18, had been acting for six years before his performance in “Jekyll and Hyde,” which was his final appearance at Sayreville War Memorial High School.
In 2006, he caught the acting bug while watching “West Side Story” at the Main Street Theatre in Sayreville. Since then, he has performed in eight of the theater’s productions as well as in seven school plays.
“I have always liked telling a story to an audience, whether it’s one they know or if I’m telling them something new,” Ferlita said. “I like the reaction.”
The Paper Mill Playhouse in Millburn bestowed Ferlita with its 2012 Rising Star Award for Outstanding Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role for his “Jekyll and Hyde” performance.
According to the playhouse’s Internet website, the awards competition was created in 1996 to encourage exceptional accomplishments in the production of high school musical theater. It is a statewide competition modeled after Broadway’s Tony Awards.
Recognition of outstanding achievement by students and educators is made in the areas of performance, design, direction, choreography, technical production and overall production excellence. Ferlita made it to the prenomination stage for the last three years, but this was his first nomination and win.
“I was absolutely in shock because the other nominees were so talented,” he said. “I thought there was no way I could win.”
Ferlita received an engraved Tiffany & Co. crystal plate from the competition’s sponsor.
Life after this month’s high school graduation has been particularly eventful for Ferlita. He was accepted into a five-week program starting July 2 at the Paper Mill Playhouse’s Summer Musical Theatre Conservatory.
He recently competed for a week at New York University as a 2012 nominee for a Jimmy Award, named after legendary Broadway theater owner and producer James Nederlander. During the competition, 30 male and 30 female actors compete for the Best Performance by anActress and Best Performance by an Actor awards, selected by a panel of industry experts.
Once the summer ends, Ferlita will be attending Middlesex County College under the NJ Stars program to study criminal justice, with plans to transfer to Rutgers University after two years. He said he would “take a run at Broadway” during his college years, but he said he is equally passionate about constitutional law.
“He could go either way, but as a mom, I’m saying, ‘This is your chance. Go for it now,’ ” Roberta said. “It would be an amazing opportunity to get into Broadway and if something happens, I’m going to support him.”
Ferlita, who joined the choir in his junior year, sang the national anthem at his graduation ceremony. He said graduation went smoothly and he avoided most of the sadness some of his peers felt.
“I took a more positive approach to it than most of my friends,” he said. “I see it as a new beginning.”