"We are pleased to add this educational component to our mission, and assisting in finding two talented high school students to live their dream of performing on a Broadway stage," said Nederlander San Diego vice president Joe Kobryner in an earlier statement.
"I was so pleased to be asked by the Nederlander Organization to lend my name to support the Southwest Region of the National High School Musical Theatre Awards," added Vereen. "Arts in Education is so vital to the fabric of our society, and it is one of my main passions. I'm hoping that the national high school champions will come from my region, and look forward to supporting their journey."
The Ben Vereen Awards are held at the Spreckels Theatre in Downtown San Diego and include up to ten leading female and male semi-finalists. It will also award Best Musical, Best Drama Teacher and People's Choice (those in attendance will choose a winner).
The nominees for Best High School Musical are Cathedral Catholic High School, Classical Academy High School and Coronado High School.
Best Actor nominees include Cameron Chang (Canyon Crest Academy), Jacob Gardenswartz (Francis Parker High School), Jonah Duhe (El Camino High School), Jonathan Norwood (Classical Academy High School), Justin Haupt (Cathedral Catholic High School), Martin Ortiz (El Camino High School), Maximilian DeLoach (Carlsbad High School), Noah Castillero (Classical Academy High School) and Sebastian Conant-Guy (Classical Academy High School). Best Actress nominees are Alexandria Loucks (SDS Creative and Performing Arts), Aubree Bouche (La Costa Canyon High School), Baylie Rose Zimmerman (Coronado High School), Chase McCarthy (Classical Academy High School), Emma Tarr (Classical Academy High School), Jackie Foster (Poway High School), Mary Grace Sumner (Cathedral Catholic High School), Olivia Pence (Classical Academy High School) and Rebecca Dhillon (Poway High School).
Following the local competition, semi-finalists from San Diego and Tucson will compete in the Southwest Region Finals at the Spreckels Theatre June 14. The winning male and female Leading Performers will be flown to New York for a week of intensive training before they compete in the national finals, The Jimmy Awards, on a Broadway stage for a $10,000 scholarship June 30.
The National High School Musical Theater Awards (NHSMTA), also known as The Jimmy Awards, named for chairman of the Nederlander Producing Company of America and Broadway/San Diego, James M. Nederlander, is "a national celebration of outstanding student achievement in high school musical theatre that recognizes individual artistry in vocal, dance and acting performance, and honors teachers and their schools' commitment to performing arts education," according to press notes. "The Jimmy Awards inspired a PBS 3-part documentary series called 'Broadway or Bust,' which followed students on a journey from their hometown competitions to their debut on Broadway."