Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The 2011 Jimmy Awards

There's probably more to be said about the TONY's, but I've wasted enough of your time.  This post is a bout the Jimmy Awards.


  I was introduced to these for the first time back in 2009 while reading the program to a show I went to.  It said that the show was nominated for something called "The Shuler Hensley Awards".  Research showed that basically, this was like the TONY's, except for highschools.  For a small fee, the highschool asks the judges to come and see their show and judge them on many the same criteria as the TONY awards (best production, actor/actress, costume, set, direction, etc.).  When I decided to take my discoveries to YouTube, I found a whole new network of excellence.  I found that there are several similar Awards given to highschooler's throughout the country.  I could (and have) spent days just looking at videos of the most talented children throughout the country!  I found that although the Shuler Hensley Awards are relatively young (only started in 2009), there are some that have been going for 20-30 years now!  This is an amazing program that has sent many stars out into the world!  All this leads up to the Jimmy Awards.  Starting in 2009 (I timed finding out about this perfectly!) the winning leading actor & actress from each respective award program get sent to New York for two weeks to meet Broadway actors, train with professional coaches, and meet other kids as insanely talented as they are.  After this training period, they each perform segments of their show (and finalists get to perform a solo number from any Broadway show) for another panel of judges.  The winner of this (The Jimmy Awards) gets $10,000 and the opportunity to apply and be accepted to NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts for the “New Studio on Broadway: Music Theatre and Acting” program and receive both merit and need-based financial aid. So this is obviously a big deal and a fantastic opportunity for all of these kids.

Every year, the program grows as more states around the country develop programs and therefore more actors & actresses are sent.  What started as a group of 30 or so kids has has grown to an event with 50 performers where they need an entire medly just to hear all of the Millie Dilmounts!  This year there were six medleys (3 for each gender) packed with talented children:


  They medleys are my favorite part of the program because it's just a blast to see all of my favorite shows blend together in harmony.  It's also a fantastic way to hear a clip of a song and thereby go find the show (These medleys are how I found shows like "Little Women", "Les Miz", &  "Barnum").

Medley one:

Featuring: Mia Gerachis as Baker's Wife from "Into the Woods"; Maggie Hunter as Baker's Wife from "Into the Woods"; Lucy Moon Fitzsimons as Tracy Turnbladt from "Hairspray"; Jamie Harwood as Marian Paroo from "The Music Man"; Nicole Elledge as Patsy Cline from "Always...Patsy Cline"; Katie McKernan as Rosie Alvarez from "Bye Bye Birdie"; Maya Maniar as Hope Cladwell from "Urinetown The Musical"; Sarah Klingel as Anna Leonowens from "The King and I"; Amanda Leslie Higgins as Belle from "Beauty and the Beast"; and Joy Christian as Dorothy from "The Wiz".

This is a pretty standard Medley, with the exception of Patsy Cline, all of these shows are relatively popular with highschools everywhere.  But even if the shows they came from were normal, these actresses were anything but.  Although none of them won the major awards, there were two winners in this group.  The girl who played the first baker's wife from Into the Woods (who I was kind of rooting for since I saw her in her regional program) won the "Spirit of the Jimmy's" award, and the girl who played Hope Cladwell from Urinetown won "Outstanding Ensemble Work".  My favorites from this medley was the first baker's wife, Rosie (Bye Bye Birdie), and Dorthy (The Wiz), but all of them were amazing!
Medley two:
Featuring: Chase Durrett as Evan Goldman from "13: The Musical"; Kevin Crowley as Pippin from "Pippin"; Jacob Gonzalez as Jean Valjean from "Les Misérables"; Paul Powers as Jean Valjean from "Les Misérables"; Seth Jones as Bobby Child from "Crazy for You"; James Stankunas as Huckleberry Finn from "Big River"; Daniel Walton as Bob Wallace from "White Christmas"; and Ben Mays as Freddy Benson from "Dirty Rotten Scoundrels".

This is the first Medley for the guys, and it's fantastic.  It has the inevitable two valjeans (there have been two every year so far), but aside from that most of these roles are unusual.  Shows like Big River, 13, and Dirty Rotten Scoundrels tend to keep the focus on 2-3 characters and are thereby uncommon for highschools.  But this medley contains some of my favorite guys of the year.  Huckleberry Finn has been my favorite ever since I saw his regional tape.  He was just so full of energy and so lively that I really wanted him to succeed!  I was also very impressed with the first Valjean who sang, I loved the smoothness of his voice.  Bobby Child was another one of my favorites, I was glad to see that he was a finalist for the Lead Actor award.  I also want to recognize the fellow who played Pippin, he was one of my favorites in this Medley so I was excited to see that he won the award for "best work ethic and desire to improve".  All these gentlemen are fantastic and deserved the opportunity given them.
Medley three:
Featuring: Emily Loewus as Sharon McLonergan from "Finian's Rainbow"; Kassiani Menas as The Witch from "Into the Woods"; Shauni Ruetz as The Witch from "Into the Woods"; Taylor Nefcy as Babe Williams from "The Pajama Game"; Emily Hart as Jen from "John and Jen"; Breyannah Tillman as Aida from "Aida"; Sarah Sommers as Narrator from Joseph And The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat; Kylie Arnold as Violet from "Side Show"; Kirsten Hoover as Nanette from "No, No, Nanette"; and Allison Sheppard as Jo March from "Little Women".

This is a fantastic example of diversity.  These girls come from common highschool shows (such as Into the Woods and Little Women) and the most random (such as Side Show and John & Jen).  Ironically, all three of the finalists (Aida, Nanette, and the second witch) came from this medley.  This was probably my favorite female medley of the night.  Particularly the girls from Sideshow, The Pajama Game, Little Women, and John & Jen (my favorites never win) impressed me stupendously. All of them had fantastic traits.  The emotion of Aida, the strength of the Witches, the body language of Nanette, all of these women were fantastic and I'm sure they will succeed in coming years.

Medley Four:
Featuring: K. Nathan McHenry as John Jasper from "The Mystery of Edwin Drood"; Robert Joseph Price as William Barfée from "The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee"; Andrew Tighe as P.T. Barnum from "Barnum"; Michael Mahady as Leaf Coneybear from "The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee"; Douglas Davis as Edward Rochester from "Jane Eyre"; Christian Thompson as Signor Naccarelli from "The Light In The Piazza"; and Trevor Bates as Man in Chair from "The Drowsy Chaperone".

This was my favorite medley of the men.  One thing I've noticed in my years of watching these medleys is that they like to put the lovestruck characters mostly in one medley and keep most of the comedic roles together in the same medley.  This is a comedic medley.  All of these guys had fantastic comedic timing!  It's also fun to see many rarely done shows in this medley.  Barnum is almost never done by highschools, so it's surprising that this is the third actor who came from that show.  But it makes slightly more sense when you realize the actor playing P.T. Barnum has to be a genius to pull off the role, so almost anyone good enough to do the role is good enough to win for it.  You also don't often get to see people from the Mystery of Edwin Drood in this show (he is the second I've seen).  But the kid who played it was hilarious!  I was also glad to see one of my favorite characters, The Man in the Chair (Drowsey Chaperone), was nominated.  Although his song was a bit boring, his performance was great. Of course, I was thrilled to see "25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee" represented twice!  Both of those guys got to play one some of the zaniest roles ever to grace Broadway's stage, and they pulled it off.  All in all, it was a freakishly fantastic medley!

Medley Five:

Featuring: Lindsay Estelle Dunn as Millie from "Thoroughly Modern Millie"; Bethany Angelica Menjivar as Millie from "Thoroughly Modern Millie"; Sarah Cartwright as Millie from "Thoroughly Modern Millie"; Elizabeth Romero as Millie from "Thoroughly Modern Millie"; and Melissa Ruh as Millie from "Thoroughly Modern Millie".

It's kind of tough to judge all these girls because they all blend together.  There wasn't really one of them that particularly stood out to me (or the judges apparently, because none of these girls won anything).  Although they certainly are very talented to get this far, they didn't really stand out above the rest of their comrades.  Of course, it was kind of cool to see how they all worked their way in and out of the same song, so this is definitely a Jimmy Awards first, but not particularly memorable to me.

Medley Six:

Featuring: Ryan McCartan as J. Pierrepont Finch from "How To Succeed in Business Without Really Trying"; Zachary Zaret as J. Pierrepont Finch from "How To Succeed in Business Without Really Trying"; Mitchell Jones as Curly from "Oklahoma!"; John Michael Taormina as Curly from "Oklahoma!"; Mackenzie Orr as Baker from "Into the Woods"; Keaton Jadwin as Baker from "Into the Woods"; Luke Halferty as Tevye from "Fiddler On The Roof"; Max Gottschall as Tevye from "Fiddler On The Roof"; John Caliendo as Tevye from "Fiddler On The Roof"; and Aaron Wilcox as Tevye from "Fiddler On The Roof".

This Medley (like the previous one) has no unique shows by design.  Each one of these gentlemen play roles that are relatively common for highschools.But that doesn't mean specific actors stand out.  The first guy to sing was the winner of Best Actor, and he deserved it.  Many times I don't particularly like the winners in their medley because they have a boring role or just don't catch my eye, but usually when you see the solo performances you see that the judges made the right call.  This is no exception, Mr. Ryan McCartan did a fantastic job in his solo performance and actually was one of my favorites in this medley too (this was just my least favorite guy medley).  Another finalist to come from this bunch was the first baker you heard sing.  He has been another favorite of mine from back when I saw his regional tape (he does "No More" beautifully!)  I should also recognize the last Tevye to perform, because he I thought captured the character better than the rest of the guys, he did really well.

And that concludes the massive Medley section.

There is lots more to say about the Jimmy's, but as I learned from my Tony posts, you guys can only take so much.  I would however recommend that you look up these videos on your own accord.  The YouTube username "nhsmta" has a plethora of videos solely devoted to this program, and you can find people out there who post videos of specific regional awards.  I'll post some links on the bottom here of some of the video's I've enjoyed the most, but I would encourage you to look out for these coming every year (in late June-early July).  This program is fantastic!  And it has produced many stars including Patrick Thomas (recently seen in "The Voice") and Anne Hathaway (everyone knows her).  Remember to look for the links below for other video's of this beautiful program!