It’s award season! Broadway is a-buzz with the the Tony Awards… the Drama Desk Awards… the Lucille Lortel Awards… the Outer Critics Circle Awards… the Theatre World Awards… the Astaire Awards… and the list goes on. But, amidst it all, there is a whole other set of trophies being handed out not just to the best of Broadway’s present, but to the best of Broadway’s future! I’m talking about the National High School Musical Theater Awards.
What are the National High School Musical Theater Awards? I’m so glad you asked.
The NHSMTA is an annual competition that culminates in the Jimmy Awards at Broadway’s Minskoff Theatre, where one high school guy and girl will win the top prize for a performance in their school’s musical production. Exciting concept, right? It’s like the teenage Tony. But, long before it’s Jimmy time, there are numerous regional competitions that decide who will be traveling to the big city for their week to work with Broadway professionals and perform on a Broadway stage. And yes, New York City has it’s very own qualifying round: the Gershwin Awards!
Last year, I spent the day at the Gershwins with the Camp Broadway staff, watching as a group of super-talented and passionate kids from the five boroughs prepared and performed. It was amazing– what could have been a high-stress situation was instead an exercise of extreme focus from a company of consummate professionals.
The nominees began the day learning a medley of classic Gershwin tunes. Not only did they have to learn the difficult harmonies associated with Gershwin classics, but they were also taught staging and choreography to put together an opening number for the performance that afternoon. Following the fast-paced rehearsal, each contestant had a few minutes to run the song they would be performing for the award show. Each performer was given a shortened cut of one of their character’s signature songs. We saw everything from Usnavi in In the Heights to the Beast in Beauty and the Beast, and everything in between. After these quick run-throughs, it was some last group rehearsing, vocal warm-ups and then showtime!
At the performance in front of friends, family, and industry professionals, the contestants were scored by a panel of “celebrity judges.” These three successful individuals included David Chase, a musical supervisor currently represented by Nice Work If You Can Get It and Cinderella, Eliza Ventura, the Artistic Director and Co-Founder of CAP21, and Cesar A. Rocha, a casting agent from the Broadway powerhouse, Telsey + Co.
The judges were supportive and offered lots of advice to the contestants. They made it clear that there is a place for you in the theater no matter what. Whatever the results that day turned out to be, the judges wanted the contestants to realize that they should all feel accomplished and continue to do theater if it’s their passion, whether their work is onstage or backstage. There are countless avenues to have a piece of the theater business, and everyone can find it if they truly want to.
But, at the end of the day, there had to be winners. The prizes went to Harold Theurer of Poly Prep Country Day School for his “Tony” in West Side Story, and to Halle Mastroberardino of Harrison High School for her performance in Crazy for You. Harold and Halle won full scholarships to the summer program at CAP21, along with two other contestants who received “up-and-comer awards.” The energy and talent at last year’s show was stunning, and if last year’s Gershwins were any indication, we’re in for a treat once again.
If you’re a student or teacher at a New York City-area high school, applying to participate in the Gershwin Awards is easy! Click here to start your process and we hope to see you at Davenport Studios on May 31!