ON THE SCENE: High School Theatre Thrives on Broadway as Jimmy Award Winners Are Announced

By Michael Gioia
01 Jul 2014

Jonah Rawitz
Jonah Rawitz

The 6th Annual National High School Musical Theater Awards (NHSMTA), also known as the Jimmy Awards, were held June 30 at Broadway's Minskoff Theatre, where Jonah Rawitz and Jai'Len Josey were named Best Actor and Best Actress, respectively. Playbill.com was there.

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While most shows were dark June 30, there was still "Magic to Do" on Broadway, and a Pippin, a Leading Player and a handful of Jean Valjeans still graced the Great White Way at the 2014 National High School Musical Theater Awards.

Directed by Van Kaplan, choreographed by Kiesha Lalama and orchestrated by music director Michael Moricz, 56 high school students, hailing from 31 regions across the United States, made their Broadway debuts in a national competition that celebrated high school theatre and was hosted by Ryan McCartan, the 2011 Jimmy Award winner who recently starred as JD in the Off-Broadway musical Heathers and appears on Disney's "Liv & Maddie."



As the lights went down at the Minskoff, the students rushed the stage for an opening number that included "On Broadway" from Smokey Joes Cafe, "No More Wasted Time" from the new Tom Kitt-Brian Yorkey musical If/Then, "For Good" from the long-running hit musical Wicked, "Corner of the Sky" from Pippin and "I Just Can't Wait to Be King" from The Lion King. The teenagers gleamed as they sang Simba's lyric, "Everywhere you look I'm standing in the spotlight," directly from Broadway's Pride Rock.

Following the opening act were six medleys, in which groups of Best Actor and Best Actress Jimmy nominees performed a snippet of their award-winning high school performances in costume, as their character. The panel of judges — which included Sergio Trujillo (Tony-winning choreographer of Memphis), Kent Gash (New Studio on Broadway, NYU Tisch School of the Arts Department of Drama), Rachel Hoffman (Telsey + Company), Arielle Tepper Madover (Tony Award-winning producer), Tara Rubin (Tara Rubin Casting) and Nick Scandalios (Nederlander Organization) — based their score on their medley performance and their preliminary performance seen a day earlier in rehearsals.

Krystal Joy Brown, Adam Kantor, Julia Murney, Andrea Burns and Renee Elise Goldsberry previously coached the students throughout their week in New York City.

"I said to them, 'I know this is a 'competition,' but now let's throw that out because it's not," said coach Murney at the show's after party at John's Pizzeria. "I know extraordinary people who've never been nominated for a Tony, let alone won one. [I told] them, 'I'm proud of you, regardless. I want to buy you all a milkshake no matter what happens… Just find your joy in what you're doing, and let's just do it.' And, I do think they all bond very quickly because they're with these people who they know — they don't know, but they know, in their soul."

The students rallied behind one another in the various medleys, where the audience was offered "Last Midnight" from Into the Woods, "For You" and "It's Possible" from Seussical, a comedic "Adolpho" from The Drowsy Chaperone, a heartfelt "Bring Him Home" from Les Miz, "I Can Hear the Bells" and "You Can't Stop the Beat" from Hairspray, "It Won't Be Long Now" and the title song from In the Heights, "Run Freedom Run" and "Follow Your Heart" from Urinetown, "I'd Give My Life For You" from Miss Saigon (performed by Playbill Jimmy blogger Emma Magbanua) and a show-stopping "And I Am Telling You" from Dreamgirls (performed by this year's Best Actress winner Jai'len Josey), among others.

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