From June 25-July 30, 56 teenagers — who hail from 31 regions across the United States — prepare for the 2014 National High School Musical Theater Awards, which will take place at Broadway's Minskoff Theatre 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."
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.
Buckley and Magbanua continue to update Playbill.com with an exclusive blog that takes readers behind the scenes and into the rehearsal rooms.
Keenan Buckley: June 28
Day four of the Jimmy Awards: Wow, am I pooped!
I thought yesterday was long… Today was jam packed full of cleanup rehearsal to perfect our show. The day began, again, with some amazing yoga that lifted my spirits and made me feel like I could take on anything. I really have to start doing it all the time.
Then we all set up chairs and prepared to watch a run through of every competitors solo. Let me just say, WOW! I was not expecting that. Every single performance was so incredible. Everyone was on their A-game, as they performed their hearts out. It was inspiring, intimidating and breathtaking to watch the future of Broadway before my eyes.
After the solo performances, we went to lunch and my medley group and I got into our costumes and prepared to run our medley for the production team. Fortunately for us, our medley group practiced and was completely ready to perform our piece. Choreographer Kiesha Lalama and director Van Kaplan gave all of us great ideas for our characters as they perfected every part of our medley. After finishing with our production team, my medley group headed upstairs for more cleanup rehearsals. As we walked, in I noticed a familiar face — it was my old dance teacher Ashley. I could not believe it, this is such a small world. I had no idea that she had been one of Kiesha's students at Point Park University. After a quick reunion, we got right down to work, making sure every step, snap and movement was in perfect rhythm and time.
After a filling dinner, we headed into the main studio to finish our opening number. I was so tired when I left that studio I could barely stand. Kiesha knows how to work us. Everything is going so well. The opening number is done, the medleys are clean, and the solos are ready for performance. There is only one thing left to do.
Tomorrow is the second biggest day of this journey. We will all be auditioning and getting judged by some of the biggest names in the business. I am scared, nervous and excited for the opportunity to show the judges what I can do.
Wish me luck!
Emma Magbanua: June 28
The 56 Jimmy nominees were dismissed at 9 PM tonight — an hour and thirty minutes earlier than usual! For some, this meant ice cream. For others, pizza. And for most, sleep!
Although short (time wise), today was another long day. We had breakfast at 8 AM and then yoga. What followed these activities gave everyone the chills: performing before director Van Kaplan and choreographer Keisha Lalama. This might be due to the fact that we were in a very well air-conditioned room for a few hours, but speaking for myself, it was because I am very talented at overthinking.
I am a worrier. The rest of the 56 are warriors — not only in their yoga poses, but also in their courage and ability to share pieces of themselves when performing for anyone they are before. I vacuumed down three bottles of water only to remember I have a urinary system that works perfectly!
In the line up, I'm 17 ("…and I'm new here today." HA!). At 13, I was off to the bathroom. At this point, my head was still pounding and my heart still racing, thinking about how to prove to everyone that I belonged here at nationals.
I found comfort in the bathroom. I saw a sticker planted on the toilet paper dispenser. It wasn't an ad sticker or a nametag or a cartoon character. It was a circle. It read, "Remember you are an artist."
I wasn't chilly anymore. Yes, the Jimmy Awards is a competition. Yes, there are 56 contestants hoping to embrace the title: "Winner of the 2014 Jimmy Awards." Yes, the 56 are more than just contestants. We are artists — learning how to better inspire and honor others.
All the artists performed their solos before Van and Keisha. All the artists performed their medleys before Van and Keisha. All the artists learned the staging to entire opening number.
The 56 headed to their dorms early on the fourth night, awaiting another day of rigorous rehearsals and this time, a night presenting their solos and medleys before the judges.