Wednesday, June 29, 2011

It wasn't ALL work and no play...

After Monday night's amazing event, all 48 nominees, our two new winners and a BIG crowd of supporters gathered in the Minskoff Theatre lobby for a well-deserved celebration. Against the floor-to-ceiling windows looking out onto the bright lights of Times Square, they took time to share stories from the past week with their family and friends. The party ran past midnight then it was back to the dorms for one last night at NYU.

A nice surprise met the participants when they awoke Tuesday morning - a delicious, HOT breakfast buffet! After enjoying their share of eggs, sausage, waffles, bacon and all things yummy, it was time to board the buses for a trip to Telsey Casting.

The day at Telsey started with a meeting including the 50 participants and representatives from Nickelodeon. From there, individual screen-tests for Nickelodeon were completed...what a great opportunity! Following the screen-tests, Jimmy Awards judge and Telsey casting director Rachel Hoffman gave the group a workshop on auditions, resume preparation and an overview on what it takes to work in show biz. Throughout the morning, everyone had a chance to look at materials from a real Actors Equity audition (one was in session in the very same building at the same time!) .

After a relaxing pizza lunch, everyone boarded the bus and said goodbye to New York City. Keep an eye on this group - we know they'll be back in NYC very soon!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Oh, What a Night!

It’s sad, but true…the 3rd Annual Jimmy Awards are officially over. It’s been an incredible seven days in the Big Apple. New friends have been found, Broadway debuts made and a lifetime of memories captured. Last night was the perfect crowning moment for everyone. The evening began with all 50 participants gathering in the Minskoff lobby with NHSMTA President Van Kaplan and Choreographer Kiesha Lalama for one last talk. Each nominee was individually recognized for their participation in the program and three special awards were given to three very surprised participants. Maya Maniar from San Jose’s Stage Top Honor Awards was recognized for her stellar ensemble work throughout the week. Kevin Crowley, this year’s Gershwin Awards winner from New York City, was selected for his work ethic and his continuing efforts to perfect his performance. Finally, Houston’s Tommy Tune Awards winner Mia Gerachis was chosen by her peers to receive the “Spirit of the Jimmys” award for embodying the true spirit of The Jimmy Awards.

It was then time to head into the dressing rooms to prepare. Among those in the wings were this year’s star lineup of presenters including: Broadway legends Tommy Tune and Harvey Fierstein; new hit stars Aaron Tveit and Nikki M. James (2011 Tony Award-winner and America’s favorite bumblebee!); 2009 NHSMTA winner for Best Performance by an Actor and current NYU sophomore Stephen Mark; and Billy Elliott star and our charming host for the evening, Greg Jbara! Needless to say, the red-carpet was truly fitting for this crop of Broadway royalty.


The clock struck 7:30pm and it was time for all performers to take their places. The nervous excitement was intense! The first group of participants, Medley One, took the stage featuring: Mia Gerachis as the Baker's Wife from Into the Woods; Lucy Moon Fitzsimmons as Tracy Turnblad in Hairspray; Nicole Elledge as Patsy Cline from Always...Patsy Cline; Maya Maniar as Hope in Urinetown; Amanda Higgins as Belle from Beauty and the Beast; Maggie Hunter as the Baker's Wife from Into the Woods; Jamie Harwood as Marian in The Music Man; Katie McKernan as Rosie in Bye Bye Birdie; Sarah Klingel as Anna from The King and I; and Joy Christian as Dorothy in The Wiz. Their performances were STUNNING!

Medley Two brought us the first male medley of the evening: Chase Durrett as Evan in 13: The Musical; Jacob Gonazalez as Jean Valjean in Les Miserables; Seth Jones as Bobby in Crazy for You; Daniel Walton as Bob in White Christmas; Kevin Crowley as Pippin in Pippin; Paul Powers as Jean Valjean in Les Miserables; James Stankunas as Huckleberry Finn in Big River; and Ben Mays as Freddy from Dirty Rotten Scoundrels. These eight young men commanded the stage like Broadway pros!
For our third medley, the audience was introduced to Emily Loewus as Sharon from Finian's Rainbow; Shauni Ruetz as the Witch in Into the Woods; Emily Hart as Jen from John and Jen; Sarah Sommers as the Narrator in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat; Kirsten Hoover as Nanette from No, No, Nanette; Kassiani Menas as the Witch from Into the Woods; Taylor Nefcy as Babe in The Pajama Game; Breyannah Tillman as Aida in Aida; Kylie Arnold as Violet from Side Show; and Allison Sheppard as Jo in Little Women. From start to finish, the medley was truly "astonishing!"
In less than a New York minute, we were halfway through the medley section of the evening. Medley Four brought to the stage seven more talented gentleman: K. Nathan McHenry as John in The Mystery of Edwin Drood; Andrew Tighe as P.T. Barnum in Barnum; Douglas Davis as Edward from Jane Eyre; Trevor Bates as Man in Chair from The Drowsy Charperone; Robert Price as William in The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee; Michael Mahady as Leaf from The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee; and Christian Thompson as Signor Naccarelli in Light in the Piazza. The medley showcased romance, comedy and the beauty of each actor's incredible gifts.

If you thought you were seeing double during Medley Five, you're wrong - you were seeing...FIVE Millies from Thoroughly Modern Millie: Lindsay Dunn, Bethany Menjivar, Sarah Carwright, Elizabeth Romero and Melissa Ruh dazzled the audience with every note during their time on stage. We've never seen so many sequins!

Medley Six...Well - if you were a "rich man" you'd most likely place your bet on the fact that this medley had everyone in stitches by its end. It started with a pair of J. Pierrepont Finches from How to Succeed..., Zachary Zaret and Ryan McCartan; moved to dueling Curleys, Mitchell Jones and John Taormina, from Oklahoma!; made friends with two Bakers from Into the Woods, MacKenzie Orr and Keaton Jadwin; and ended with a quartet of Tevyes from Fiddler on the Roof, Luke Halferty, Max Gottschal, John Caliendo and Aaron Wilcox. With each hilarious step these guys really wowed the crowd, eliciting more than a few whistles of appreciation!

After intermission, the 50 participants waited in anticipation of the event's finalists. As Greg Jbara read the names, the nominees stepped into the spotlight. MacKenzie Orr, Seth Jones, Ryan McCartan, Shauni Ruetz, Breyannah Tillman and Kirsten Hoover each took their coveted spot on stage before returning to their dressing rooms (grinning ear-to-ear) to prepare for their solos as finalists for the Jimmy Awards. One-by-one they wowed the crowd with their solo selections. If you'll remember, these are the songs they perfected with their coaches earlier in the week. And wow, were they perfect!

Unfortunately, the curtain had to eventually come down. But
before it did, there was a very important announcement to make! After the expert panel of judges (Scott Ellis, Kent Gash, Montego Glover, Rachel Hoffman, Alecia Parker and Nick Scandalios) cast their final votes, Van Kaplan and James L. Nederlander took the stage for the awards presentation. The winners were announced - Ryan McCartan from Spotlight Musical Theatre Program in Minneapolis as Best Performance by an Actor and Shauni Ruetz from Stars of Tomorrow Awards in Rochester, NY! These outstanding young performers were presented with their Jimmy Awards and gave moving speeches to a crowd of over 1,500 attendees. By winning the Jimmy Award, both Ryan and Shauni each received a check from Mr. Nederlander for $10,000, as well as the chance to complete the application process for NYU's Tisch School of the Arts, New Studio on Broadway: Music Theatre and Acting program.

Upon acceptance, they will be eligible to receive both merit and need-based financial aid. Congratulation to these gifted winners and to all participants for an unforgettable evening of song, dance and memories to last a lifetime!

Monday, June 27, 2011

The 2011 Jimmy Awards are less than 6 hours away!!!

Last night, after the last solo was performed, all 50 participants gathered their belongings and said "goodbye" one last time to their new-found home at NYU. After a good night's sleep, this morning brought a lot of nervous energy and excitement for tonight's show. Today started with breakfast outside under a beautiful NYC sky, then the buses were loaded, taking everyone straight to the Minskoff Theatre. As each nominee stepped through the stage door you could feel their pulse quicken...their Broadway debuts were just hours away! After settling into dressing rooms it was time to wait in the wings for the special moment when each nominee would take the stage for the first time. There were big smiles, a bit of laughter and even a few tears of joy. Once everyone had taken it all in, it was time to get down to the business of technical rehearsal. A lot of rehearsal..a nice lunch, complete with a press masterclass from NYC's Hartman Group, then a few more hours of preparation for what is sure to be a memorable night for everyone in attendance!

Sunday, June 26, 2011

The judges arrive in less than ONE HOUR!

Tonight is a beautiful night for singing, isn't it?! Starting at 6:30pm, each participant will take their place before the Jimmy Awards judges to perform their solo selection. From classic tunes from My Fair Lady and Fiddler on the Roof to recent Broadway shows In the Heights and Catch Me If You Can, and a host of amazing Broadway songs in between, these 50 performers are ready to WOW this expert panel of industry professionals! Before the dinner break NHSMTA President Van Kaplan and Choreographer Kiesha Lalama took a few moments for a pep-talk. Everyone is now focused and ready to go. Break a leg!

Friday, June 24, 2011

It sounds like Broadway in here!

Believe it or not, last night marked the end of two rigorous days of solo coaching. The transformations were INCREDIBLE! Upon arrival, the participants were placed into groups and assigned coaches. Now, the time has come for them to step out on their own with the new tools they've been given. Today is a full day of rehearsal, including all material for Monday's big night and they're ready!

They're working hard, but don't worry - all participants were treated to a delightful lunch yesterday with Broadway star and Tony Award-winner Beth Leavel; current star of "Baby It's You!" Beth shared her story about going from Social Work major at a small North Carolina college to Broadway veteran. Her advice to everyone - learn that which you don't know (in her case, reading music) and learn from every mistake you make! Poignant advice aside, she had the room in giddy laughter during her visit and is one Broadway "Baby" all nominees will be sure to remember for a lifetime.

Dinner brought a panel of expert speakers from NYU. As the participants listened closely, Patricia Decker, Director of Recruitment, explained the complex financial aid application process, making certain that everyone was familiar with the procedure. Manager of Admissions, Chris Andersson, entertained the crowd with his dramatic explanation of the various drama programs and available disciplines at NYU. Kent Gash, Director of NYU Tisch School of the Arts New Studio on Broadway: Music Theatre and Acting dove into the audition process saying "We are all actors. We are all story-tellers;" and encouraged everyone to "bring your joy, bring all of who you are, into the room" during auditions. Kent introduced the recipient of the very first Jimmy Award for Best Performance by an Actor, Stephen Mark (2009). Having just completed his Freshman year at Tisch, Stephen talked about surviving his first week and using his experience at NHSMTA as a springboard to prepare for
the rigors of his new university training.

All-in-all a day full of nervous energy, laughter and even a little education thrown in! On to today - one step closer to Broadway and the Minskoff Theatre on Monday!

Day 2: Rehearsal and Planet Hollywood and "The Addams Family" and more!

Day 2 started off like just any other day in the life of a high school student. All 50 participants woke up, showered, brushed their teeth, combed their hair and were out the door in less than a New York minute. The difference was that before this day ended these 50 bright-eyed hopefuls would have lunched with a Broadway star, dined in Times Square and met the cast of a hit Broadway premiere, including one of Broadway's most legendary performers. Oh, and they also spent hours rehearsing for the biggest show of their lives.

After a full morning of solo coaching with NYU faculty members including a Tony Award-winner (Broadway's original "Sweeney Todd,") and two Tony Award nominees, the kids gathered for lunch with the star of Broadway's "Priscilla, Queen of the Desert" Nick Adams, for a candid discussion about what it takes to make it in show biz. Nick's advice? If you can't imagine doing anything but singing and dancing your way through life, then do it!

Lunch was followed by four more hours of coaching and choreography for Monday's show before the buses were loaded and everyone was off to Planet Hollywood in the heart of Times Square. Surrounded by priceless Broadway and Hollywood artifacts the participants had a chance to relax and enjoy a meal with their new-found friends. One table even erupted in an impromptu (and beautiful) rendition of "Happy Birthday" to one participant's lucky best bud who called in to check from their hometown.

Following dinner the group headed over to the gorgeous Lunt-Fontanne Theatre for "The Addams Family." After the curtain came down and the applause subsided everyone headed to the front of the Orchestra section for an exclusive talk-back session with cast members including Broadway veteran Bebe Neuwirth! Bebe and company talked about their respective roads to success and how important it is to stay true to oneself and pursue your dreams! It was a tough night to sleep after the excitement of the day, but there is a lot of work ahead and lights were out by midnight.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The 3rd Annual National High School Musical Theater Awards are in full swing!

It's hard to believe that The National High School Musical Theater Awards started
just three short years ago! Now, The Jimmy Awards are back...50 participants strong. This amazing group of talented youngsters from across the country arrived today to check into the dorms at NYU and have brought lots of energy with them!

After settling into their new homes this excited group of students, chaperones and Awards staff gathered for dinner together. After dinner each participant stood and introduced themselves and it became clear that the group had its share of jokesters from near (New York City) and far (California!). But they were ready to get down to business with the first music rehearsal TONIGHT.

Unlike many high school musical programs that rehearse for months at a time, this show comes together in less than ONE WEEK. And it's on BROADWAY at the Minskoff Theatre. From solo rehearsals to putting together medleys for Monday's big night, it's going to be a busy but memorable six days for all!