"Living My Dream" — Jimmy Award Nominees Perform For Casting Directors and Prepare For Their Broadway Debut

News   "Living My Dream" — Jimmy Award Nominees Perform For Casting Directors and Prepare For Their Broadway Debut The 7th Annual National High School Musical Theater Awards, also known as the Jimmy Awards, are held June 29. Nominees Audrey McKee and Alec Michael Ryan blog about their week in New York City and their journey to the Jimmys. Two of the participants have been blogging for Playbill.com. See their latest posts, below.

Audrey McKee
Audrey McKee

Now in their seventh year, the Jimmy Awards feature 52 high school student finalists who have been selected from across the U.S. to perform at the Minskoff Theatre, currently home to the Broadway musical The Lion King. Michael Cerveris hosts.

Throughout the week students have been meeting with seasoned Broadway performers and creative artists, attending vocal coachings and rehearsals to prepare for this year's ceremony, where they 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 will determine the recipients of the Best Performance by an Actor and Best Performance by an Actress awards.

Audrey McKee and Alec Michael Ryan represent The Tommy Tune Awards in Houston, TX, for their respective performances as Mary Poppins in Mary Poppins and Laurence Jameson in Dirty Rotten Scoundrels.

McKee and Ryan will continue to update Playbill.com with an exclusive blog that takes readers behind the scenes.

Read their first blog, "The Beginning of My Future," here.

Read their second blog, about getting greeted by Broadway pros, here

Read their third and fourth blogs, about "being authentically you," here.

Audrey McKee: June 28

Day five. Wow. What an indescribable day.

I woke up this morning and rushed to prepare myself for the long day ahead of me. Post breakfast, we began with some relaxing yoga sessions, and we then met with a partner and each exchanged one word that described our experience here thus far.

My word was "Success," as in future success that would (hopefully) one day come to us all. It is no secret that the acting industry is competitive and very difficult, often causing a lot of people to "cop-out" and stop pursuing their dream. I have made an oath to myself to not be one of those people. Even though I know things will get hard and stressful, I have told myself that I will stick with my acting career no matter what. I have a dream that I want to see become a reality, and when I consider that, it sparks a fire in my body and mind that pushes me to work harder than before.

Post yoga, we ran the opening and closing numbers a million times until they were spotless. While we were rehearsing, Van made an announcement that we will be performing with the Robert Fairchild and Brandon Uranowitz from An American in Paris. I was speechless. I could not believe that we will be dancing on the Minskoff stage with two Tony-nominated actors from one of the most artistically pleasing shows of all time.  After a quick lunch, we began to perform our medley numbers for everyone. It was so amazing to see everyone transform into his or her characters and fill the room with their stage presence. I laughed and sang along with so many of the songs. We then went down and ate dinner. The next item on the agenda was performing for the judges. 

I quickly got changed into my Mary Poppins costume and began preparing myself for this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that I was about to embark on. I was about to perform in front of some of the biggest casting directors on Broadway. The boys walked out, and the girls nervously strutted in. It was surreal. We sat in our medley order, and one by one, we began performing our characters.

Before I began singing, I thought to myself how amazing this is — how I am living my dream, singing in front of top casting directors, with a character that I love so very much. I was ready to share a bit of the world of Mary Poppins with everyone. 

Our medley was a success — everyone was laughing at our quirky characters and having a good time with us. This was so encouraging to us as we moved into the solo presentations. After nailing our medley, I was extremely excited to sing my solo. When it was finally one away from me, I took in three deep breaths and began thinking about my song, although trying not to "overthink." I was confident that I knew my song well; now all I had to do was live in the moment and perform to the best of my abilities. I was nervous, but I confidently told myself that there was no room for nerves. This was a one-way shot to my future, and no amount of nerves could get in my way. 

As I took to the stage, the world melted away and I became Millie Dillmount for my solo performance of "Gimme Gimme," desperately crying out for "that thing called love." As I hit my last note, I was suddenly filled with so much joy. Julia Murney said she hopes that all of us will be able to experience that moment as we finish singing our solo that is a "drop the mic" moment. This was definitely one of those moments for me — I was confident that I performed to the best of my abilities.

When that was done, we gave a big round of applause to all the talent in the room, and then we headed off to bed.

Today, casting directors. Tomorrow, the Minskoff stage. The audience. The finalists. The last big push. The end of one era. The beginning of the next.

I could not be more thankful for the opportunities that I have so graciously had that chance to be a part of. I cannot wait for tomorrow and all the magic it has to bring.

For all of you coming to the Jimmy's tonight, y'all are in for a real treat!

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