Broadway Performers Answer Questions from This Year’s Jimmy Awards Nominees

Special Features   Broadway Performers Answer Questions from This Year’s Jimmy Awards Nominees
 
Meet eight of this 2016 nominees for the National High School Musical Theatre Awards (the Jimmys), plus their questions for Broadway celebs!
Jimmy Awards HR
2015 Jimmy Awards Monica Simoes

The National High School Musical Theatre Awards (a.k.a. The Jimmy Awards) are in town. The June 27 competition unites 62 finalists (or nominees) for the awards of Best Performance by an Actor and Best Performance by an Actress. These kids are tackling roles well beyond their years, and doing so with grace and power. (Remember 2013 finalist Eva Noblezada ended up taking on the role of Kim in the WEst End’s Miss Saigon transferring to Broadway spring 2017.) Prior to the ceremony, these students engage in a ten-day intensive, coached by Broadway stars. But more than technique, these students learn about themselves through theatre and teach us all about the value of theatre education.

Playbill.com spoke to eight of this year’s nominees about the characters they’ve played, the lessons they’ve learned and their experience at the 2016 Jimmy Awards. Look out, world. These could be the stars of tomorrow.

Amanda Dayhoff, Orange County, CA

Jimmy Awards 2016 headshots
Amanda Dayhoff

Year: Senior this fall
Nominated for her performance as: Fiona in Shrek The Musical
Favorite thing about playing the role: “She’s just so quirky and so different and it’s so much fun. I’m a girl of color and I’m a little plus-size and Fiona’s usually a little smaller, you know, it’s not what I would normally play.”
How has your experience at the Jimmys been so far? “It’s been exhausting and it’s gone by really quickly. It’s awesome to meet so many people from around the country.”
If you could ask one Broadway performer a question, who would it be and what is your question: “It would be for Lin-Manuel Miranda, because I’m obsessed with him naturally. What is the feeling of seeing this musical that you’ve worked so hard on blossom before your very eyes?”

Muhammad Yunus, Houston, TX

Muhammad Yunus
Muhammad Yunus

Year: Graduate, Class of 2016
Nominated for: Usnavi in In The Heights
Favorite thing about playing the role: “The story of home and figuring out who you are as a person, this great juxtaposition of being an immigrant and being a native of America was something very true and close to my heart and over everything the theme of home was something that spoke to me. The fact that it was a hip-hop musical was just kind of an added bonus. (I came from a rapping, hip-hop background.) I was attracted to In The Heights purely because of the story and the rapping aspect was something that came to my benefit.”
What’s the best part about the Jimmy Awards? “Every single person that I’ve met, every single show that I’ve learned about is just making me a better and better performer. Being in the Jimmy Awards it doesn’t feel like a competition at all. It feels like this giant learning seminar where all these great artists, mentors and all these great things are at my disposal, and everybody’s here to make everybody better. It’s just this great organic process.”
If you could ask one Broadway performer a question, who would it be and what is your question: “Billy Porter. When he’s singing ‘Not My Father’s Son,’ what does he see? What is he looking at? Because there is such a pureness and Kinky Boots is a musical that inspired me to be on this journey.”
Billy Porter answers: “I was not seeing anything. I was living it. I have lived it.”

Amina Faye, Charlotte, NC

Amina Faye
Amina Faye

Year: Graduate, Class of 2016
Nominated for: Sarah in Ragtime
Favorite thing about playing the role: “It’s such an iconic role. I’ve had a lot of people help me mold the character that I want her to be. At first, when I got the role, there was a lot of pressure because Audra McDonald played it, but once you get to the heart of it and you realize, “I’m Amina. I’m not Audra, I’m never gonna be Audra….” So I’ve really not only found who my version of Sarah is but also who I am.”
What is the most surprising thing about the Jimmy Awards? “I don’t think I’ve ever been around as much talent before. It’s scary but it’s also really exciting and it’s pushed me because I see what one person’s capable of and I’m like, “Wow I have to step up.” When you take away the competitive aspect, we’re putting on a show, so we’re all rooting for one another, and we’re all each other’s castmates in that sense. You really feel that sense of encouragement. ... And I get to play myself, which is crazy. You don’t get a show where you get to play who you are!”
If you could ask one Broadway performer a question, who would it be and what is your question: “At this moment it would be Cynthia Erivo. Girl, how do you do it? I saw The Color Purple and I think the night I saw it was their 100th performance and she played it in London and here and imagine how many times she’s done it and the genuineness that she had, the tears that were coming down her face were real tears. I think that’s everyone’s question is how can you be genuine?”
Cynthia Erivo answers: “Hello Amina, I do it all with the help of an incredible cast, determination, and a stubborn nature that won't allow me not to at least try to do it all!! Something tells me you might be the same!!! Much luck at Penn State!!”

Noah King, Mesa, AZ

Noah King
Noah King

Year: Graduate, Class of 2016
Nominated for: Captain Hook/Mr. Darling in Peter Pan
Favorite thing about playing the role: “I got to be this swaggering evil character which is something which is way out of—what I thought was—my comfort zone. Being able to take on that persona and take on that darkness, it’s fun to be the villain. I’ve been more of a kind, bully character. I was a Wickersham Brother in Seussical.”
How would you describe the Jimmy Awards experience so far? “It’s definitely different from anything I’ve ever experienced. It sounds a little conceited, but back home I’m usually really in the top area of competitors and so coming here and being with all the people that are on the same level or better, it’s a humbling experience as well as a glorious experience. I love being with people who share my same mindset and people who share my same talents.”
If you could ask one Broadway performer a question, who would it be and what is your question: “It would be for Adam Pascal. I love him. How in the heck does he hit the high notes?”
Adam Pascal answers:

Adrian Villegas, Huntington Beach, CA

Adrian Villegas
Adrian Villegas

Year: Impending senior
Nominated for: Stone in City of Angels
Favorite thing about playing the role: “He’s the epitome of a 1940s smooth classic detective. I think it was just so fun to tap into that classic fim noir genre. A lot of musicals have that jazzy sound, but nothing like City of Angels. It’s so classic. Not many people know the show and it’s so complex and different. Stone—in his name itself—he was this stone cold character on the outside but on the inside he had so much emotion and so much hurt but at the same time was so involved in his work that he never really had a chance to reflect on that.”
What is the most special thing about being part of the Jimmys: “It’s been amazing. I’ve never been around such amazing talent in one place at one time. Everyone here is just so amazingly talented. It’s inspiring to me and I’ve learned so much and grown so much as an actor and as a performer even as a person. I feel like I’m going to leave with a changed persona.”
If you could ask one Broadway performer a question, who would it be and what is your question: “Ramin Karimloo. I wanna know what he thinks is the most rewarding thing about being an artist in the theatre.”

Jazley Genovese, San Diego, CA

Jazley Genovese
Jazley Genovese

Year: Graduate, Class of 2016
Nominated for: Matron Mama Morton in Chicago
What’s your favorite part of the Jimmy Awards so far? “Yesterday when we learned that dance number for the opening, everyone was so amazing. The choreographer, Kiesha [LaLama], was able to take people of all levels and make this amazing strong opener that we all feel so confident in.”
If you could ask one Broadway performer a question, who would it be and what is your question: “Angela Lansbury. She’s played all of my dream roles basically. Where does she dive in to those emotions in her characters and how does she find those places with so much truth in it? Everything is real onstage, nothing ever seems pushed. Everything just seems so truthful about it and just always admire that so much.”

Devin Moore, Pittsburgh, PA

Devin Moore
Devin Moore

Year: Impending senior
Nominated for: Jean Valjean in Les Miserables
Favorite thing about playing the role: “He’s such a real person. As much as it’s 1700s France—you would not think it’s relatable—but he goes through such a big change. His life is altered, but as soon as he gets a chance to thrive you just see this huge arc. The character itself is so relatable to any life event.”
What is the most special thing about being part of the Jimmys: “I think the best thing is just being with other people who, we might not all have the same goals, but we’re here for the same reasons: they love what they do, they’re amazing at what they do (some of these people you’re just blown away). There are people who are 15 years old who could be on these Broadway stages in a few years. I think I’m learning the most—I mean the coaches are amazing—but I’m learning how to become a better performer from my peers.”

Read his blog about the 2016 Jimmy Awards experience.

Emma Griffone, Los Angeles, CA

Emma Griffone
Emma Griffone

Year: Graduate, Class of 2016
Nominated for: Evillene in The Wiz
Favorite thing about playing the role: “I was so free to be confident. She’s so intimidating and evil and doesn’t care about anyone else. It’s a very narcissistic role and to realistically play narcissism you have to be confident with yourself. So that’s what this whole year was about for me really. My posture changed, everything about me sort of changed after playing the role.”
What’s the most surprising thing about the Jimmy Awards? “That everyone is at the same level. When I’ve always done stuff like this in Los Angeles there have always been people who are really good, but there are some people who drag behind and when you’re trying to do an opening number, for example. Everyone here is on the same page, everyone here is interested in the same thing.”
If you could ask one Broadway performer a question, who would it be and what is your question: “Audra McDonald. As an actress of color, how do you not get type-casted into certain roles, and how do you keep going in an industry that only recently got so diverse?She’s always been one of my role models and such a lovely voice and she’s just kept going with her career and doesn’t let anything stop her.”
Audra McDonald answers: “When I think I'm right for something, I go for it no matter what. Finding the heart of a character and wholeheartedly committing to it is all you can do. There are plenty of people in our industry who will tell you "no," but you can't be one of them.”


Marnie Quick, Pittsburgh, PA

Marnie Quick
Marnie Quick

Year: Graduate, Class of 2016
Nominated for: Doralee Rhodes in 9 to 5 The Musical
Favorite thing about playing the role: “The accent and buying the boobs. Buying the boobs was a fun experience. I have essentially three push-up bras, and I contour. It’s a lot. I went on a shopping trip with my mom.”
This is your third time at the Jimmy Awards, what’s different about this year? “It’s longer [as a ten-day intensive instead of five], so we have more free time. It’s so exciting. The best thing that you could take away from this experience are the tools that you learn from the people you work with, from everyone else who are nominees, coaches, Keisha, Van everybody. I’ve changed so much from this program. I was talking to my mom about the difference from when I first left in 2014 until now. I’m light-years different because of, literally, a week in New York doing what I love to do.”
If you could ask one Broadway performer a question, who would it be and what is your question: “I try not to play favorites, so I would ask an ensemble member. What is the most important thing to remember in rehearsal? What is the one skill you need to have when rehearsing in the ensemble for a Broadway musical?”
Tyler Hanes answers: “I would say that during rehearsals, always make bold choices. That is the time to try everything out and be fearless. It's easy to get in your head during the rehearsal period because that's when people are their most insecure, but you have keep the good actor thoughts (“I got this,” “I am enough”) flowing and the bad actor thoughts (“I suck,” “I’m untalented”) away. You must always be gentle to yourself during that time. Start each morning asking yourself, “What can I bring to the rehearsal?” and be open and positive to everything you are receiving.”

Read her blog about the 2016 Jimmy Awards experience.

Ruthie Fierberg is the Features Editor at Playbill.com. She has also written for Backstage, Parents and American Baby. See more at ruthiefierberg.com and follow her on Twitter at @RuthiesATrain.

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