Saturday, October 20, 2012

The 2012 Jimmy Awards

Have you ever been waiting for a package to come? You are so excited to get it that you check the mail every day and constantly imagine how happy you'll be when it finally arrives. Of course, it seems like you've been waiting forever after only a few days. Then you realize, you have been waiting forever, or practically. What was supposed to happen in a week becomes two weeks, then a month, then two months. Eventually you tell yourself that it's not coming. Regardless of whether or not you believe it, that's what you have to tell yourself to stay sane. THEN IT COMES!!!!!!

Yeah, this has never happened to me.

But I did experience something similar with this year's Jimmy Award Videos. For those of you who don't know what the Jimmy Awards are, you can read about it in some detail in the blog I did last year or the nhsmta website, but for now let's just say that it's like the Tony Awards for Highschool. I have been avidly following the Jimmy's since they began in 2009 and I have loved watching how it has grown. As a symbol of this growth this year, PBS did a 3 episode mini-series on the journey these 60 highschoolers took entitled Broadway Or Bust (this is why they delayed posting the videos to Youtube). The kids who are chosen to participate get to train with professionals for 5 days and then get to perform on the 6th day at the Minskoff Theatre (where The Lion King usually performs). These are some of the videos from that performance and my thoughts on the contestants.

The Medleys

Frequent readers will know that the medleys are my favorite part of the Jimmy Awards. In these medleys, each actor/actress sings a clip from the show that (s)he won for. This is also my favorite way to learn about new shows. It was the Jimmy medleys that introduced me to shows like Les Miserables, The Mystery of Edwin Drood, Jane Eyre, John & Jen, and The Scarlet Pimpernel. Here are the medleys of 2012:

Right off of the bat I think this is my favorite medley.  I loved the humor they threw into it (I almost died at "Phantom shadows on the floor").  This medley also had some of my favorite performers out of all of the students.  I think my favorites in this medley were Mr. Hyde [Jekyll & Hyde](I sing that song all the time, so I know how hard it is...he's better at it than I am) and Harold Hill [The Music Man].  Both of them had great stage presence and really impressive voices.  I have also been a fan of Marius [Les Miserables] and Seymour [Little Shop Of Horrors] from their regional videos, but I felt their medley performances weren't as amazing as their videos.  I also want to congratulate the Phantoms [The Phantom of the Opera], they were really great, and any higschooler who can take on a role such as The Phantom is already amazing in my book!


This was the girl Medley I was most excited about seeing because it had characters from shows that I feel are underrepresented in highschools (such as Parade), actresses who were featured in "Broadway Or Bust" (such as the girl who played Celie), and a female Jesus [Godspell] (which was intriguing to say the least).  I must say, these girls didn't disappoint.   It starts off with a couple of Belle's (probably the second most represented character at the Jimmy's, second only to Millie Dillmount) singing a song that ISN'T "Home" (I was really excited to see that).  Another thing that makes this medley unique is that it has characters that could be considered supporting actresses.  Cinderella [Into the Woods] and Lilly Craven [The Secret Garden] both come from shows who have very defined leading ladies...and these aren't them.  This entire group were all really good.  Even actresses that didn't really impress me in their regional videos  (like Maria) did a really good job.  I think my favorites were Dorothy [The Wizard of Oz], and Celie [The Color Purple].  Of course I loved all of them, but these were the two who I felt really stood out in this video.

Technically I'd have to say this is my least favorite of the guy medleys, which is a testament to how great they all are!  These guys really did a great job and you could tell that each and every one of them deserved to be here.  This was mostly the "straight man" Medley (as is evidenced by the "incredible variety" in costumes), but even so it had some great moments.  There were some actors (such as Albert [Bye Bye Birdie] and Don Lockwood [Singin' In The Rain]) who surprised me with how good they were because I wasn't too impressed with their regional videos.  I also really enjoyed the first Jimmy [Thoroughly Modern Millie] (who was a favorite since his regional video) and Cornelius Hackle [Hello Dolly!].  But even these were hard to single out because the entire cast of this Medley is just so talented   I also have to mention the transition between "Singing in the Rain" and "Put on a Happy Face"...BRILLIANT!


This is probably my favorite Medley of the girls.  I love the variety of characters (it's nice to have a few who don't just sing love songs) and all of these actresses are so talented!  The second best actress in this medley was, in my opinion, Elle Woods [Legally Blonde].  Although I'm not loving the song choice for this medley (which wasn't in her control), she did a great job performing and singing it, and I could see the rest of her range from the Broadway or Bust clips so I know she had the chops to pull off the rest of the character's songs.  My favorite girl in this medley was the phenomenal young lady playing Mrs. Lovett [Sweeney Todd].  I wish I had a video of this girl I could show to all actresses attempting this role (including Helena Bonham Carter) as the epitome of perfection.  I have literally never seen anyone come so close to Angella Lansbury's legendary performance of this role.  Even when she wasn't in the spotlight you could kind of see Mrs. Lovett peeking through the ensemble.  I give honorable mention to Polly Barker [Crazy for You] for her outstanding confidence and stage presence  and Timoune [Once On This Island], because once she found her voice she did really well.

I really like this medley even though it didn't have a lot of original characters.  I mean, you can close your eyes and point to a highschool and chances are they are doing Hairspray, or Les Miserables, or Pippin.  Even shows that don't get a whole lot of highschool action (such as Phantom of the Opera or Ragtime) are well known to practically everyone in the theatrical community.  This Medley also follows the times representing the shows that have suddenly risen in popularity in the past few years (such as Crazy for You and Dirty Rotten Scoundrels).  However, even through it's common characters, this medley shone brightly.  I feel I ought to point out that two of the three male finalists (The young men who played Raul [The Phantom of the Opera] and William Barfee [25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee]) were singing in this medley.  But mostly, there are just no bad singers in this entire competition.  I think my favorites were probably Raul (that pure!) and Pippin [Pippin].  Close second goes to Barfee and Freddy Benson [Dirty Rotten Scoundrels], but even those are close.  All of these guys are totally awesome!


I almost wish there was a medley that I didn't like.  I feel so repetitive saying they were all amazing but it's really true.  What set this apart is that it has two of my female picks to win it all  (from their regional videos): The young women who played Lola [D*** Yankees] and Rosemary Pinkleton [How To Succeed in Business Without Really Trying].  Of course they were far from the only talented young ladies apart.  I thought that Adelaide [Guys and Dolls] was pretty perfect, Gertrude [Seussical: The Musical] did an excellent job, and I really liked the first Princess Winifred [Once Upon a Mattress].  There is just no shortage of incredible talent filling this stage!  It honestly gives me hope in the future of Broadway.

And that does it for the medleys.  All of these kids were so superb I was practically besides myself.  This is the first year when I don't have a clear favorite because they were all so fantastic!  If I had to give the award to one actor and actress from these videos alone, I would probably give them to Michael Ferlita (who was the spectacular Mr. Hyde) and Brooke Tate (the hilarious Mrs. Lovett).  Of course neither of them even made the final that's my theater talent scout skills for ya.  So you may be asking yourself, which six did make it?  Well, I'll show you in this next segment:

The Solos

Let's start with the young ladies:

This is Erica Durham (she was the second Aida [Aida] in Medley #4) singing "Sal Tlay Ka Siti"  from The Book of Mormon.  Although her medley didn't impress me too much, she did a good enough job in her solo.  The song choice was good for her and made me laugh once I got it (the title had to be explained to me.  For those of you out there who are as slow as me: "Salt Lake City").  I don't know that she belonged in the top three, but she didn't do particularly bad.

This is Nicolette Burton (who played Kathrine [Kiss Me Kate] in the sixth Medley) singing "Maybe I Like It This Way" from Andrew Lippa's The Wild Party.  Actually I was particularly unimpressed with her medley performance because she had such a great song but she completely sped through the funny moments and didn't play it to it's potential.  That being said, I see why the judges put her in the final three; her solo is really powerful and there is no question that she has a KILLER voice!

This is the 2012 Jimmy Award Winner for Best Actress Elizabeth Romero (who was Lola [D*** Yankees] in Medley #6) singing "Disneyland" from Smile.  I would like to start by saying: "I TOTALLY CALLED THIS ONE!!!"  As soon as I saw her video I knew Elizabeth was going to win!  Of course, I knew some background information.  Her highschool is possibly the most talented group of people on the planet outside of Broadway.  They have had at least one representative at EVERY JIMMY AWARDS EVER!  Elizabeth is the second of her school (and the first girl) to win the entire competition.  And she deserved it.  Her song choice was brilliant and did an excellent job merging her inspired acting choices with a truly impressive voice.  Brava Elizabeth!

And now for our extraordinary gentlemen:

This is Drew Shafranek (who played Harold Hill [The Music Man] in Medley #1) singing "Before The Summer Ends" from Dracula: The Musical.  Drew wins (or at least ties with Elizabeth) on the most obscure song of the finals.  Very, very few people know of Frank Wildhorn's adaptation of "Dracula", mostly because this song is one of the three good ones of the entire show.  I give props to Drew for knowing the song, and even more for singing it so well.  I mean, the emotion behind this guys voice is breathtaking, and his vocal talent is pretty mind blowing as well.  This guys charismatic medley performance coupled with this stirring solo adds up to a stellar combination.  I'm honestly a bit surprised he didn't win and I hope and expect to see him starring on Broadway before long.

This is Evan Greenburg (who portrayed William Barfee [25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee] in Medley #5) singing "Master of the House" from Les Miserables.  Evan was my favorite during "Broadway Or Bust" because, not only was he from my home state, but I also really related to him on a lot of levels.  I was really excited to see him chosen as a finalist and I think he performed his song brilliantly.  I don't think he ever really had a chance to win (I'm honestly not sure how he made it to the finals, but I'm glad he did), because, let's be honest, his voice doesn't blow you away.  However, his acting is indeed phenomenal and he took a song that we have all heard a hundred times and added his own tricks to it that made me laugh every time.  Well done Evan, well done!

This is the 2012 Jimmy Award Winner for Best Actor Joshua Grosso (who was Raul [The Phantom of the Opera] in Medley #5) singing "Il Mundo Era Vuoto" from The Light In The Piazza.  I'll be honest, I wish he would've chosen a song in English.  I mean, the singing was spectacular, but it would've been nice to understand what he was saying.  Of course, song choice aside, this kid is freaking amazing!!!!  I mean, I was honestly a bit shocked that he was so down on himself during his "Broadway or Bust" interviews because it was pretty clear from the first episode that he had a spectacular voice!  He gave a solid performance in his medley and then this, even though I couldn't understand it, was really a work of art.  Color me impressed Joshua (with your talent, not your song choice).

And.....everything else

Although I don't think they're near as interesting as the medleys or solos, I thought I should include the other recorded performances of the night.  First I will show you the opening number. This is the first thing the kids get to work on when they get to New York (I think it's good to try to make them a group before they remember that it's a competition).  What they do here is really a cool idea.  Thy make a giant mash-up of shows currently running on Broadway, including long running shows like Lion King and Wicked, and the new shows like Newsies and Evita.  They highlight a few people to sing solos and it's a really cool bonding number for them all.

The closing song is just about as cool.  This song usually includes a few more soloists than the opening and is more based off of a single song.  The songs have ranged from well known ("Good Riddance" [American Idiot] ) to obscure ("I Am My Own Invention" [Wonderland]).  If there was a moment for everyone to start crying, it would be this closing number.  It really ends the night off as it should.  This year they chose to focus it around "Here Right Now", the show stopping number from Ghost.


And thus ends my 2012 Jimmy Award Post.  I'm sorry it was so late, but as I said, it wasn't completely my fault.  If you liked what you saw here then I would encourage you to read my post on last years Jimmy's, check out the Broadway or Bust website (where you can watch the whole thing), and look at NHSMTA's Youtube channel (especially the medleys and solos over the years).  Make sure to vote in the poll and leave comments, I will read them.  Thanks for reading.

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