Saturday, June 23, 2012

Day 4: Solo performances...and MORE solo performances!

Day 3 ended last night with a surprise visit from legendary songster and host of the "Great American Songbook" on PBS, Michael Feinstein.  Mr. Feinstein sat down with the group to chat about his Broadway and television experiences, then spent a few minutes with one lucky participant to work through his solo song selection, a Gershwin song as it should happen.   The group gave Mr. Feinstein a rousing round of applause before heading "home" for another important night of rest.

Day 4 began with a much-needed warm-up.  Today was it - the day each nominee was to take the stage alone to perform the solo they'd work on so intensively with their coach these past few days.  Now was the time for Director Van Kaplan and Choreographer Kiesha Lalama to have their first looks at these solos which tomorrow's judging panel will use to help decide the eventual winners of the 2012 Jimmy Awards.  Van and Kiesha sat center stage as each participant took their spot on the "X."  One by one each of the 60 students performed for the audience of staff members, peers and new-found friends.  Nerves were heightened, but the morning was filled with plenty of laughter and ended with a ringing sense of accomplishment after Van and Kiesha shared tips, tricks and advice with many of the nominees, ending the four-hour long session with a hearty "congratulations."  After an evening of medley rehearsal, the nominees will be fully prepared for tomorrow's preliminary session with the judges.  Break a leg, everyone!

Friday, June 22, 2012

Days 2 & 3: Legendary Dinner, "Nice" Night on the Town and even lunch was a SMASH!

Day 2 and the participants were off and running bright and early with music rehearsal.  They were introduced to their medley groups by Music Director Michael Moricz and stepped into solo coaching sessions for the first time...all before lunch!  This year's coaches represent an incredible wealth of talent:  Broadway's Liz Callaway and Michael McElroy return once again and are joined by three exciting stage and screen veterans: Telly Lueng, who recently appeared in Godspell while on break from "GLEE," Leslie Odom, Jr. of "Smash" fame whose Broadway credits include RENT and Leap of Faith and Broadway star of Aida and RENT, Schele Williams-Kleinberger. 

Though each student was assigned to one of these performing arts professionals, they had the exciting opportunity to meet each coach during lunch and a talk-back session.  One by one, the coaches described their own adventures in high school musical theater.  As the students looked on in awe, the coaches told stories of their individual journeys to Broadway; in addition offering advice to those looking to make a career in show business while emphasizing the importance of education and ongoing training in any form.  After an informative and inspiring discussion the nominees returned to their coaching sessions for further solo work. 

Following a full afternoon of coaching and medley work the students changed into their Thursday finest and hit the road for Times Square.  Taking a ride on "The Ride" - Manhattan's largest and only glass-enclosed motor coach fleet - the participants arrived at Sardi's to dine in New York's most iconic restaurant.  After dinner they were headed to the Imperial Theatre to enjoy Nice Work If You Can Get It, but not before Nice Work star and 2012 Tony Award winner Michael McGrath stopped by for a friendly visit before heading to "Work" himself.  By the end of the night the participants were weary, but satisfied; many having witnessed their very first Broadway show.  Did we mention they also had an exclusive talk-back session with the cast, including star Kelli O'Hara and legend Estelle Parsons?!  The days at NHSMTA are long, but it truly is "Nice work if you can get it..."

After a fun-filled evening the race was on as Day 3 began with in-depth medley work and further solo coaching sessions.  The morning's hard work was rewarded with a special visit from "Smash" star, Christian Borle, fresh off of his 2012 Tony Award win for Best Actor in a Featured Role in a Play for his role as Black Stache in Peter and the Starcatcher.  He shared stories about Broadway, television and his hilarious high school musical hijinks in Pittsburgh, PA, leaving the nominees with a renewed sense of purpose as they headed into their evening sessions.

At the Starting Line

The Jimmy Awards has been described as a marathon indoors.  Over the next six days our talented nominees will be training for the event of their lifetime - the opportunity to make their Broadway debut at the famed Minskoff Theatre on Broadway. Last night the all approached the starting line for this marvelous adventure.

The kids arrived at 720 Broadway - the Tisch School of the Arts at NYU - fresh faced, full of enthusiasm and eager for the adventure to begin.  Several had just flown for the very first time, and some had never before laid eyes on New York City.  They gathered together for the first time over pizza and made immediate connections that will likely be the start of life-long friendships.

After dinner they hit the ground running.  NHSMTA Executive Producer Van Kaplan  and Choreographer Kiesha Lalama met with the nominees, and everyone had a chance to introduce themselves before they began  learning music for the opening and closing numbers for the show with Music Director Michael Moricz.

It was a fun and full first day.  After stopping by their dorm lounge for a snack and a few more moments with their new found friends, the nominees heading off to bed to rest up for Day 2!

Click here for more photos of our first day!