The Student News Site of Lynbrook High School


The Student News Site of Lynbrook High School


The Student News Site of Lynbrook High School


Gianna Longo Rewarded a Spot as Co-host of The Roger Rees Awards

Gianna Longo
Longo chatting with Ridge

Gianna Longo, a junior, often impresses those around her with her talents. “The first word that comes to mind when I think of her is invaluable,” Longo’s chorus teacher Barry Wyner said. When discussing her contributions to the music department, he became emotional, explaining how her dependability, sense of responsibility, and skill set “allow us to lean on her because [the LHS music department] knows she would never disappoint.” When she discovered the opportunity to compete to co-host the Roger Rees Awards Pre-show, she knew she would do whatever it took to earn the spot. The journey to the top was not easy, but with support from friends, teachers, and family, Longo’s hard work paid off. She reminisced on her experience as “one of the best of my life.” 

The annual Roger Rees Awards were held on Sunday, May 19 at the Gerald W. Lynch Theater at John Jay College. Longo described the ceremony as “The Tony Awards for high school theater kids.” It highlights excellence in the high school musical theater community for dancers, musicians, singers, and actors. The awards have evolved over the years; new categories have been created for artistic aspects of the industry. “It’s really now honoring all aspects of what makes a great Musical theater performance,” Longo explained. This year, scenic and costume design awards were added. 

To earn the position of the preshow’s co-host, Longo had to enter a series of contests, competing with some of the most gifted theater students in New York. The “Student Reporter Search” was the first step in her journey, requiring her to write a 300-word biography, persuading the Roger Rees team as to why she would be a perfect preshow co-host. “[The Student Reporter Search] was perfect for her. As soon as I heard about it, it felt meant to be, and I knew that if she applied, she would have a really good chance of winning,” Wyner said. Although she had only days to perfect her essay, her efforts did not fail to impress the judges. A week later, she found out she was a finalist, one of six students selected from Long Island, New York City, and Westchester. After meeting with a theater critic from Theatrely (, a news site of all things Broadway and performing arts, and cast members of the new Broadway production of The Outsiders, she felt more experienced with arts journalism. Longo was excited to become exposed to this industry through such experienced individuals. “Meeting and getting the chance to speak with them and ask questions for my finalist project was very cool,” Longo said. Only one finalist’s two-minute video and 450-word feature story would be selected as the contest’s winner. 

Longo with Theo Lencicki, the Roger Rees’ choreographer.

The finalist project required Longo to report on the relevance of The Outsiders in the modern world and the importance of representing teenage voices in theater. Familiar with The Outsiders novel, English teacher Roseanne Mitchell was featured in Longo’s video entry. “She interviewed me about my experience with teaching The Outsiders, asking me questions about the book,” Mitchell recalled. Longo also interviewed junior Shannon Mansfield and LHS alumni Jaiden Moreno (class of 2023), two passionate music students. 

Learning that her finalist project was chosen as the winner of the Student Reporter Search and that she would proceed to co-host the Roger Rees Preshow was a surreal moment for Longo: “Right away, I told all my friends and teachers. I was crying, shaking, laughing, and it was crazy because I was not expecting to win.” Her victory was announced in April, and for the next month and a half, Longo worked with members of the Roger Rees Foundation and writers from both Theatrely and Broadway World (, another arts journalism site, preparing for her debut at the preshow. She exchanged emails and scheduled Zoom calls, making sure the details were perfect. Longo also won tickets to The Outsiders musical on Broadway. “I got to sit five rows from the stage, which was insane,” she recalled. 

A week before the awards, Longo received a schedule of the day, including a list of people she would likely be interviewing: several judges, people who create and execute the awards, and the ambassador of the Roger Rees Awards, Rick Ellis. Ellis, once the husband of Rees, wrote Tony award-winning musicals and a memoir of his life with Rees. “To get ready for my interviews, I spent time researching the people, coming up with two to three questions for each,” Longo explained. 

Longo has been interested in journalism since her freshman year of high school, yet she still felt nervous prior to her first live interview. “I had never done a live show before, so I was definitely worried about remembering what to say and how to say it,” she recalled. Her co-host and reporter for Broadway World, Richard Ridge, helped soothe her nerves and revel in the spotlight. “It was really a combined effort to make the preshow what it was. I learned so much from the 45 minutes that we were hosting it, especially as I watched Richie specifically ask questions and introduce people. I quickly learned to become comfortable with speaking to respected adults in the industry,” Longo added. She was honored to meet stars like musical theater performer and actor Bonnie Milligan, feeling as though they treated her as an “equal.” “It was crazy that I had the opportunity to speak to a Tony Award winner and shake [Milligan’s] hand. She was addressing me by my name,” she said. 

Longo with Milligan. (Gianna Longo)

In addition to co-hosting the preshow, Longo presented two awards to ceremony nominees. The New Faces Awards acknowledges outstanding

performances of emerging new artists, specifically in voice, acting, and dance. She also presented the Harmony Helpers Award for excellence in choral group performance. She was excited to acknowledge these promising young performers, watching as the audience applauded their success. 

Longo’s experience, while demanding, was eye-opening for her. “After the event, [and with] the people I have met and the connections I have made, I am definitely considering a future in the industry,” she said. By learning from experienced journalists, cast members, and Tony-Award winners, she has set her foundation in arts journalism, hoping to build on its roots with her talent, gaining expertise on the way. “During my interviews, people kept saying that I was the future of Broadway World, and I hope this experience was just the beginning of my reporting journey,” she reflected. 



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About the Contributors
Emily Franklin
Emily Franklin, Managing Editor
My name is Emily Franklin, and I am a member of the Class of 2025 and an editor for Horizon. I am part of the Key Club, Birthday Wishes Club, and Mathletes. In my free time, I enjoy reading, writing, and playing softball.
Sayge Rolnick, Managing Editor
I am a graphics editor for Horizon and a member of the LHS Class of 2025.
Gianna Longo
Gianna Longo, Managing Editor
Hey there! My name’s Gianna, and I’m a member of the Class of 2025, along with many clubs here at LHS. In my spare time, you can find me on the stage, in the music wing, at my dance studio, or writing and editing for Horizon. Happy reading!