Every year, many high schools in Western New York stage some sort of musical production. Many hours go into perfecting the performance, including everything from acting, to singing and dancing, to making the set, to publicizing the show. All this, often, for no greater reward than tremendous applause (hopefully) at the final bow and the pride that comes with putting on a great show.

For seven lucky schools, however, that is not the only prize.

The Kenny Awards, an annual awards show sponsored by Shea's Performing Arts Center and the Lipke Foundation, recognize excellence in high school musicals. This year it celebrated its 18th anniversary Sunday at Shea's before an energetic crowd.

One production is selected to receive "The Kenny" for Outstanding Musical Production. Apart from the prestige of such an award, that school's theater department receives $5,000 from the Lipke Foundation.

This year's finalists were Bishop Timon-St. Jude and Mount Mercy Academy, Canisius High School, Charter School for the Applied Technologies, Cleveland Hill High School, East Aurora High School, Park School and Wilson High School.

Each of the schools performed a five- to seven-minute excerpt from its show. Feelings of anxiety and excitement ran rampant backstage. Many were amazed at the sheer size of the Shea's stage, as well as the thought of the amazingly talented actors and actresses that had performed there.

"I'll always remember it," said Midge Bishop, a sophomore at Mount Mercy Academy.

"I was so nervous. It was nerve-wracking because you don't want to mess up," said Jonathan Nguyen, a freshman at Bishop Timon-St. Jude High School.

"Performing at Shea's took more effort. It was a lot different than a high school show," said Myra Engel, a freshman at East Aurora High School.

"[The stage] is so big, you really have to project your voice more," added her sister, Liz Engel, a sophomore.

All of the schools received recognition during the ceremony.

Among the award recipients was Andrew Slawson, who won Outstanding Actor in a Leading Role for his portrayal of Nathan Detroit in Canisius High School's production of "Guys and Dolls."

"I was at a loss for words," said Slawson, a senior.

Jennifer Fitzery, the Education Program coordinator at Shea's, said, "I hope that [schools] realize that although the Kenny program is a great program, the most important thing is that all of the students involved in their production have fun."

Jenna Kersten is a sophomore at Mount Mercy Academy.