Thursday, August 1, 2013

2013 Jimmy Awards

Everybody loves the Jimmy Awards.  There's nothing not to love!  The talent of the kids, the cleverness of the arrangements, the opportunity these students are receiving, all of it is just so darn amazing!  As some of you remember, last year we were made to wait some time before these videos were posted because they were releasing a PBS documentary called Broadway or Bust about these amazing talents.  To be honest, I really loved that special and I wish they could've done it again this year (but they should've told us that they were going to wait to release the videos).  But since there was no such special this year, the medleys have actually been released at a fairly reasonable time.  So please enjoy these marvelously talented students as they effectively blow your mind!!!!

*NOTE* For some reason I cannot explain, it's not letting me post most of the videos here on this blog.  If you click the green hyperlinks then you can watch them on youtube, but I'm afraid you can't watch them straight from here.  Sorry :(

If you're not familiar with the Jimmy Award Medleys then you definitely need to go to the NHSMTA Youtube page and watch all of the past years medleys.  These are such an amazing way to showcase each of the performers in the roles that landed them in the Jimmy's and they always find a way to have fun with the blending of the songs while still staying true to the characters.  The night that they were all posted, I stayed up late into the night watching them all and then had to go to my room and create my own improv medleys with my favorite characters (in pantomime of course, because my family was all asleep).  These just look like so much fun you can't help but want to join in!  So, without further ado, the 2013 Jimmy Award Medleys:

I know we're just beginning, but this has to be my favorite guy medley of the bunch.  It has great characters, great actors, good arrangements, and THAT ENDING HARMONY!  One of my favorite things about this medley is the fact that characters we've seen before sang songs we hadn't heard.  In the past all the Jekyll/Hydes sang "Alive Reprise", all Sweeney Todds sang "Epiphany", All Freddy Bensons sang "Great Big Stuff", etc.  But this time we got to hear those familiar voices sing new songs (a theme repeated in most of these medleys) which was great.  I also liked seeing some characters from fairly famous shows that we haven't seen before (namely Frank Cioffi, Adolpho, and Batboy).  The positive highlights of this Medley were definitely Adolpho (that kid was hysterical!) and Dr. Jekyll (What a voice!).  I also want to give a shout out to Valjean for doing a great job on a tough song, and the second Sweeney for having the voice of a 30 year old base.  Some not so nice parts of the medley included Seymour's performance (sorry!), Freddy starting too soon (but he nailed his two big notes after that), and the most awkward transition I've ever heard in one of these (from "My Friends" [Sweeney Todd] to "Let Me Walk Among You" [Batboy] ).  But then Coalhouse did an awesome job pulling things back in, and the entire ensemble ended on the best note(s) I've heard in a long time!  Great job men of Medley #1!!!

I think this is my favorite of the girl's Medleys for a lot of reasons.  I like the fact that we finally have gotten an Eponine (two in fact) as a nominee (I've been shocked that more haven't been nominated in the past).  I also like the fact that we got to see some characters that haven't been nominated ever before (like Kate Monster [Avenue Q] and Marmee [Little Women]).  I also love that they really did handle their "Millie" well in that they put her in a medley without the other one, and gave her a song that WASN'T Gimme Gimme (I've heard that song in these medleys more than I care to remember).  I also just like the staggering amount of talent in this Medley!  I think my favorites were the "bookend performers" of Kate Monster [Avenue Q] and Ariel Moore [Footloose].  But Cinderella [Into the Woods] and Millie Dillmount [Thoroughly Modern Millie] were both close runner ups.  The rest were certainly good, but they just didn't jump out as much.  And I also want to mention that I didn't particularly enjoy the performance of the two Adelaides [Guys and Dolls].  I mean, I know that accent comes with the character, but, for some reason, when these two did it, it got on my nerves more than it has in the past.  I also want to point out the range that Marmee [Little Women] had.  She sang most of that song in a super low register and still managed to tackle the higher falsetto notes.  All in all, all of these ladies were absolutely wonderful!

Once before (in 2011) they had so many of one character (Millie Dillmount in that one) that they gave them their own medley.  If you remember, it wasn't very good.  It was pretty repetitive, didn't have any dynamic, and none of the actresses were particularly incredible.  It was just kind of boring.  Because of this, I was afraid that this Baker Medley would fall under the same category of dullness.  However, there is one truly fascinating thing about the Baker that I hadn't noticed until this song.  He doesn't have a solo.  There is not a single song in the show that the baker has all to his own.  So they couldn't do what they did last time (have all five of them jump in and out of one song), so what did they do?  THEY MADE AN ACTUAL MEDLEY!  This was brilliant!  This means you still got the dynamic and the transition while staying within the same character.  But it gets even better!  They had the foresight to play with some of the lyrics a bit so as to keep the audience laughing (I just about died at "when there's five of you").  Like with the Millies, I can't really pick out any of these bakers above the rest, but this time it was because they were all just so entertaining in the way they worked together.  So congratulations the Jimmy Awards for this clever arrangement, and for all of these wonderfully talented bakers!

Ok, before I get going there is one question that I have.  How the heck is there a highschool in America who is allowed to do Spring Awakening (And before you ask, no, there is no official "cleaned up version".  Any editing that might have happened would've been illegal).  Ok, now that that's out of the way, onto the medley.  I did really like this medley.  From beginning to end it was certainly entertaining to say the least.  All of these girls did a fabulous job, but to me the stand outs were the first Olive Ostrovsky [25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee]and Meredith Parker [Batboy] (I was so disappointed it had to be her mic that cut out).  Honorable mention definitely goes to the Jo March [Little Women] (What an incredible voice!).  As for anything bad about this Medley.  I didn't care for the ending note the girls hit (partially because I don't think Elle [Leagally Blonde] carried it very well), and I REALLY didn't approve of the Audrey [Little Shop of Horrors].  She fell victim to the classic blunder of overdoing the accent and letting the singing suffer.  However, aside from these few cringing moments, I really did love this Medley.  It reminded me of some great songs I hadn't heard in a while and gave me a new new favorites.  Well done ladies :)

You know how they say "the whole is greater than the sum of its parts"?  Well the opposite seems true for this medley.  Individually, each of these guys do an excellent job and it's really hard to pick a favorite.  However, I don't really care for the medley as a whole.  True they did have some kind of clever transitions (mostly using Princeton), but for the most part the characters and songs in this medley were just kind of boring.  Of course, this is not to say that individually these guys were bad.  Like I said, all of these guys are awesomely talented and this medley actually includes two of the nights winners (Emmett won "Best Ensemble" and the second J. Pierpont won Best Actor).  It's hard to choose a favorite in this one.  Personally I'd probably say Emmett [Legally Blonde] and Princeton [Avenue Q] , but they were all wonderful!  The only one I didn't particularly care for was Joseph [Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat].  I can't really put my finger on why I didn't like him, I expect most of it is I don't think he was as good as the guy who played Joseph when I was in it (although I am admittedly biased).  He certainly had a good voice, I just didn't like his interpretation of the character.  But, even though this medley wasn't my favorite, it's still really good and worth watching.

Once again, I'm really in awe by all the talent here.  Granted, this medley was mostly made up of very common characters (With Velma Kelly, Annie Oakley, and The Lady of the Lake being the exceptions).  But even with that handicap, I feel like these actress found a way to make their characters their own.  Among all the talented divas singing in this medley were two official winners (Dolly Levi won Best Actress and The Lady of the Lake won for best Junior).  Personally, my favorites were The Lady of the Lake [Spamalot] ( I think she's my favorite girl of the evening.  I loved the way she put the character first but still pulled out a KILLER voice) and Velma Kelly [Chicago] (partially because I love how much her character contrasted the rest of them).  The runner up would have to be Janet van de Graaff [The Drowsy Chaperon].  Although I didn't like her performance the first time I saw it (I thought it was a bit forced), the more I watch it the more I realize that that is exactly how the character should be played.  Of course, this Medley had it's low points too.  I can't say that I liked Millie Dillmount [Thoroughly Modern Millie] or Polly Baker [Crazy for You], and that ending note they all hit made me cringe.  But if you look past these drawbacks, it's a really great group of actresses singing/acting their hearts out, and you can't ask for more than that!

Although this medley wasn't my favorite, it certainly had it's excellent moments.  It was mostly composed of "straight guys" (you can tell by all the suits) but there were a couple of fun characters tastefully thrown in there.  I thin my favorites in this medley were the Man in the Chair [The Drowsy Chaperon] (I've always loved the character, and it was fun to see him throw himself into it) and The Scarecrow [The Wiz] (another favorite character of mine, brilliantly done).  Runner up definitely goes to Billy Crocker [Anything Goes], who had a truly infections energy (and the transition into his song was priceless!).  Of course, there were a few gentlemen I didn't particularly care for.  I thought Bobby Strong [Urinetown] was a little weak on some of his big notes (but, from the looks of things, that may have been an abnormally bad day for him) and I felt like Sky Masterson [Guys and Dolls] was just kind of off.  One of the things I really liked about this medley that I feel like I have to point out are the two Valjeans [Les Miserables].  I love the fact that, although they were the same character, they really couldn't be more different.  You can see a difference in the costumes, their physical appearance, the way they carry themselves, the way they sing, and their acting choices.  What I think it is (and I doubt this was intentional) is the first one looks like a mayor, and the second looks like a convict.  Both are correct, but very different from each other.  It just goes to show how different people can interpret a character different ways.  It was also cool seeing a Usnavi [In The Heights] up there!  I didn't realize that that character really doesn't sing at all in the show (just raps) but I thought this kid did a pretty good job anyway.  All in all, it was a fun one to watch.

So that's the medleys!  I'd say they get better every year, but I think it's more accurate to say they stay perfect every year!!!  We got to see some old familiar characters (Valjean, Millie, The Baker, Belle, etc.), got to see some new ones (Billy Crocker, Meredith Parker, Joseph, Annie Oakley, etc.), and got to be spectacularly entertained!  If I had to pick favorites I think I'd probably choose Mackenzie Kurtz (The Lady of the Lake) and Steven Heller (Jekyll/Hyde), but, as usual, neither of them were finalists.  It's no secret that I'm horrible at picking those out of the medleys.  But lets have a look at the talented young performers who were finalists.

The Solos
In an attempt to diverge from last year, let's begin with the Gentlemen:

This is Austin Crute, (the nominee from Atlanta, Georgia who played The Scarecrow [The Wiz] in Medley #7) singing "Hold Me In Your Heart" from Kinky Boots.  Personally I thought this was the best performance of the guys.  He sang this song with the passion and conviction it required and it was truly fun to watch.  I think it was an excellent song choice (especially considering the comedic nature of his Medley performance) and I'm glad that he made finalist.  Way to go Austin!

This is Micheal Burrell (the nominee from Mission Viejo, California who played the third The Baker [Into the Woods] in Medley #3) singing "This Is Not Over Yet" from Parade.  I don't know why I didn't like this performance so much because I liked Micheal in his Medley and I LOVE this song.  I guess I thought he just didn't look happy enough while he sang.  I mean, this guy just found out that he might not be hung for a crime he didn't commit, so I feel like a massive grin should never leave his face, but Micheal just looks angry for most of the song.  Of course, that acting choice aside, he does have a good voice for this character and he did sing the song well, so I see why he was a finalist.  Well Done Micheal.

This is the 2013 Jimmy Award Winning Best Actor Taylor Varga (the nominee from Norwich Connecticut who played the second J. Pierpont Finch [How To Succeed in Business Without Really Trying] in Medley #5) singing "Santa Fe" from Newsies.  I haven't decided yet whether or not I like this kid's voice, but this was a perfect song choice for him.  I like how he didn't even try to add the characters iconic accent (which is traditionally WAY too heavy), he really kind of took the original character out of the song and made it his own, which I honestly approve of.  What's more, he seemed genuinely happy to be there singing, and that always makes it more enjoyable for us watching.  So, congratulations Taylor, you should be proud!

And now, for this year's lovely ladies (for some reason thus far unexplained to me, there were 4 finalists instead of 3):

This is Jillian Caillouette (the nominee from Norwich, Connecticut who played Jo March [Little Women] in Medley #4) singing "Finding Wonderland" from Wonderland: A New Adventure.  I loved Jillian in her Medley and I thought she was great here as well!  I loved the obscure song choice (that's one of my favorite things about the Jimmy Solo's, there's always a couple nice and obscure songs), and I really loved the way she belted it out.  I do feel like once she started singing the bigger notes (especially at the end) she kind of lost the acting and started looking really angry (and this is really a peaceful song lyrically) but aside from that I really don't have a complaint.  Jillian nailed it!

This is Eva Maria Noblezada (the nominee from Charlotte, North Carolina who played Ariel Moore [Footloose] in Medley #2) singing "With You" from Ghost: The Musical.  I think that this is my favorite performance of all of the soloists (guys and girls alike) and I'm honestly a bit surprised she didn't win.  Her emotion was powerful, her voice perfect, and her stare just piercing.  This song had plenty of dynamic and always seemed complete consumed in it.  All in all a really touching, ovation-worthy performance.  Brava Eva Maria!!!

This is Martha Hellerman (the nominee from Madison, Wisconsin who played Wendla [Spring Awakening] in Medley #4) singing "A Part of That" from The Last Five Years.  I really did like Martha's performance.  I thought she did a good job staying in the character, I think the song was a good choice for her, and she definitely sang it well.  I did feel like she was kind of shouting at some of the big notes, but maybe that's just what you have to do in a song like this.  All in all, to me, there really isn't much to make this performance stand out.  It wasn't amazing, but it certainly wasn't bad either.  Of course, it was way better anything that I could hope to do, and so for that, I applaud you Martha!

This is the 2013 Jimmy Award Winning Best Actress Sara Lynn Marion (the nominee from Fullerton, California who played Dolly Levi [Hello Dolly!] in Medley #6) singing "Raunchy" from 110 in the Shade.  Sarah Lynn probably gets the award for the most obscure song of the night (the only one I hadn't heard before) and I'd also wager that she delivered the "most courageous" performance.  It was wonderful to watch her completely let go of all self-consciousness, throw caution to the wind, and just get lost in this confident character.  That being said, I don't love the song choice just because it doesn't fit my personal taste.  However, her voice rocked it, and I think it's the kind of thing that she really had fun with, so I see why she picked it.  Before I finish talking about Sarah Lynn, I have to mention that she attends the Huntington Beach Academy for the Performing Arts.  You know why that's noteworthy?  Because Alex Syiek (2009 Nominee), Kyle Selig (2010 Winner), Jacob Gonzalez (2011 Nominee),  and Elizabeth Romero (2011 Nominee & 2012 Winner) also all attended the Huntington Beach Academy for the Performing Arts.  That's right, at least one person from this school has made it to the Jimmy's every year it's been in existence and Sarah Lynn is the 3rd one to win it all.  You know what this means?  It's likely that all of these people have performed in shows together!  So if you're ever near Fullerton California, go see a show by HBAPA (as I think they're occasionally known) because it's likely as not the show you see will contain future Jimmy Award nominees and winners, just like the spectacular Sara Lynn!

And...Everything Else
While, in my opinion, they aren't as cool, for continuities sake I figured I should post the rest of the performance videos from this years Jimmy Awards (or at least links).  The first one I'm going to show you is this years opening number.  If you're not familiar with the Jimmy's opening numbers, they always do a parody medley of songs from current long running Broadway shows (like Newsies and Wicked) and some of this years new shows (like Matilda and Pippin).  For some reason or another, they also decided to add in a pop song this year (We Are Young by the non-Broadway group "FUN").  Although I don't like diluting this beautiful Broadway mash up with "other music" I think as a whole this opening is still amazing!  Enjoy:

In the Jimmy's closing numbers, they always do something similar to the Opening, just with less songs.  They usually spend most of the song focusing on one or two songs instead of the several featured in the opening.  This year they chose to build the song around "Ten Minutes Ago" [Cinderella] (which was cool, because the night's hosts, Cinderella stars Santino Fontana and Laura Osnes, got to sing a little with the kids) and "Raise You Up" [Kinky Boots].  I'm sure this was an emotional moment for all of the kids, and, although it isn't my favorite of the Finales, it is really nice.  Take a look:

And that's it for this year's Jimmy Awards.  All the ups and downs, success, and defeat, wins and...well, each of these kids got flown to New York to train for a week with theater professionals, meet some of the other most talented kids in the country, audition in front of professional theater agents, and perform on a Broadway there really were no losses.  As always I am both extremely jealous of and incredibly happy for each and every one of these kids.  Remember some of these names, because there is no doubt in my mind that you'll hear of some of them again!

This is probably my last post for the summer (and when school starts up I slow down a lot).  Seeing as I might not be able to post quite as much over this next school year, I've decided to prioritize.  If you would be so kind as to vote in the top right corner for which kinds of posts you enjoy reading the most then that would greatly help me in my prioritizing.  As always thanks so much for reading, and feel free to leave any comments you like (I will read them).  Now, go listen to some Broadway Music!

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