Ardmore native and Friends' Central grad Benj Pasek took home the Academy Award for best song for "City of Stars" from La La Land. He, along with co-writer Justin Hurwitz (who also won for Best Score) and Justin Paul, were actually nominated twice in the category; the other nod went to "Audition."
Pasek is having a pretty good year. His Broadway musical Dear Evan Hansen, co-written with regular creative partner Paul, is about a troubled kid Pasek knew from Friends' Central. It's currently enjoying a successful, and critically acclaimed run, on Broadway. Our own Toby Zinman called the show "heartrending and gorgeous."
This is Pasek's first Academy Award.
"I want to thank my mom who is my date tonight. She let me quit the JCC soccer league to be in a musical. This is dedicated to all the kids who sing in the rain and all the moms who let them," Pasek said while accepting the award.
Pasek's mom is Kathy Hirsh-Pasek, who is a Stanley and Debra Lefkowitz Distinguished Faculty Fellow in the Department of Psychology at Temple University.
University of Pennsylvania graduate John Legend bolstered Pasek's words during the performance by performing both songs. Legend not only co-starred in La La Land, he also produced it with Wynnewood's Mike Jackson and Ty Stiklorius, whom he met at Penn.
Damien Chazelle, who spent part of his childhood in Haverford, also won for La La Land. He became the youngest person to ever win best director at 32.
Other locals did not fare as well. Peter Kenney, a Philly ad man, executive produced documentary short "Joe's Violin," but his film lost out to "The White Helmets."