Stage Challenge judges said they were "blown away" by Whanganui High School's portrayal of the 2010 Pike River mining disaster.
Their production, 29 Below, won them first place in the regional contest held at Palmerston North's Regent on Broadway last Friday.
Event manager Hazel Reid said 29 Below was judged the best of the nine high school productions because of their commanding performance.
"Whanganui High School's performance really blew everyone away, addressing a brilliant theme - it was really powerful and fantastic."
And design judge Damian Thorne praised the school for their inspired performance.
"Whanganui gave a strong, clever viewpoint on a very serious subject.
"The Pike River families would be so proud."
The cast of 29 Below shared a dressing room with students from Whanganui City College, who joined them in representing Whanganui with their first Stage Challenge production Te Pakanga.
City College picked up excellence awards for concept, soundtrack and student achievement while WHS received an additional seven awards for aspects such as stage use, set design, costume and drama excellence.
Rangitikei College also received three excellence awards for drama, soundtrack and costume for their production Escape Underworld.
Stage Challenge offers a platform for students to develop self-belief, confidence and resilience, while upholding key values of attending school, working towards realistic education goals, and staying fit and healthy without tobacco, alcohol and other drugs.