From June 26-July 1, 62 teenagers — who hail from 31 regions across the United States — prepare for the 2013 National High School Musical Theater Awards, which will take place at Broadway's Minskoff Theatre hosted by 2013 Tony Award nominees Laura Osnes and Santino Fontana.
Throughout the week students meet with seasoned Broadway performers and creative artists, attend vocal coachings and rehearsals to stage this year's ceremony, where they will perform and represent musical theatre competitions (where they were previously presented with an award for their performance in their high school production) sponsored by professional theatre organizations in cities across America. A panel of judges determines the recipients of the Best Performance by an Actor and Best Performance by an Actress awards.
Benton Felty and Emily Homburger represent the Hershey Theatre Apollo Awards in Hershey, PA, for their respective performances as Freddy in Dirty Rotten Scoundrels and Annie Oakley in Annie Get Your Gun.
Felty and Homburger continue to update Playbill.com with an exclusive blog that takes readers behind the scenes and into the rehearsal rooms.
Benton Felty: June 26 This is my third time ever in NYC, and it's seriously the experience of a lifetime. I feel like this is where I belong — although, I will be honest, the train ride into the city was a bit boring…but it was well worth it!
We met the staff today and all the other nominees, and we all hit it off like dynamite. Keisha Lalama, our choreographer, and Van Kaplan, our director, are going to be our main directors with Michael Moricz as the music director and arranger. After an icebreaker (with a lot of love for our fellow Pennsylvanians) we learned our opening number.
Now, I love openings and have heard quite a few, but this one is by far the best ever! The audience will love it. Although it was very taxing, I loved every second of it! But that's it for now, next time I blog I'll be the big "One Eight" (my birthday is June 27)!
Emily Homburger: June 26
Wow. What a crazy day! This is already one of the best experiences of my life — it's unbelievable.
The other kids are so nice and crazy talented. This is all completely overwhelming. I'm honestly super nervous for the coaching tomorrow and solos, but I'm so excited to work on the medleys and opening number!
Early morning tomorrow and a long day ahead — finishing it off with seeing my first show on Broadway, Annie! And, tomorrow is Benton's 18th birthday! Woohoo! Can't wait to blog about tomorrow.
Benton Felty: June 27 It's my birthday — the big "One Eight"! Had an awesome day today, and we got together with our medley groups and our voice coaches for the first time.
My coach is Leslie Odom, Jr., and let me tell you, he's fantastic. Everything he has told me has helped me so much with my vocal performance — that and listening to all the other wonderful performers! They blew me away!
When we did our medleys, Mr. Moricz was incredible with the transitions. Everyone sang their part, and everyone impressed each other. I can't wait to get at it tomorrow!
Tonight, we saw Annie. It was the third show I've ever seen on Broadway, and I got to see my favorite star, Anthony Warlow. He played Daddy Warbucks, and afterwards, when we questioned the actors on their performances at a post-show talkback, I got to learn all about him from Annie herself, Lilla Crawford. And, Jane Lynch was fantastically hysterical in the show. Definitely my best birthday yet!
Emily Homburger: June 27
Once again, I am completely blown away with how much I love this experience.
I was so nervous for the solos but my coach, Telly Leung, has this amazing way of connecting with us and making us find a connection to our song. Not only that, but all of us in his rehearsal room have already become a family.
Everyone knew I was struggling with a high note at the end of my song, and the pianist had the idea to have all my cast members stand behind me and sing it with me. Then I sang it by myself — still feeling their support behind me. When I was finally able to reach that high note, they all rushed me with a group hug, and we had our little "moment."
In all honesty, I had come into this experience with the mindset of, "This is not a competition. Don't let other people make you feel insecure." I never, ever imagined I'd feel the love I felt in that room today — completely unbelievable.
I can't wait to spend the rest of the week with my new family.