It was a stage full of rising stars at the 10th Annual National High School Musical Theatre Awards, a.k.a. The Jimmys, on June 25 at Broadway’s Minskoff Theatre — the home of Disney’s The Lion King.
The ceremony, which shines a spotlight on the best high school musical-theater singers and dancers from around the country, featured 80 hopefuls vying for the titles of Best Performance by an Actor and Actress. Renee Rapp from Charlotte, North Carolina, won best actress, while Andrew Barth Feldman of Woodmere, New York, won best actor.
Both performers were euphoric the moment they heard their names called.
“This feels like such a dream right now — I’m walking around so spacey, it doesn’t make sense,” said Rapp. Feldman added, “I’m never going to process this!”
The evening was presented by The Broadway League and hosted by Tony Award winner Laura Benanti. It also marked a grand finale for the students after they participated in a nine-day intensive program in which they trained with faculty members from NYU Tisch School of the Arts’s New Studio on Broadway and other theater professionals, including actor Adam Kantor (The Band’s Visit) and The Phantom of the Opera alum Howard McGillin.
The 2018 ceremony began with a performance by the young contestants celebrating some of Broadway’s biggest hits, including Dear Evan Hansen and Frozen. After the opening number, the students were broken into smaller groups to perform medleys showcasing the roles that earned them their places in this year’s Jimmy class. Rapp, who recently graduated from Northwest School of the Arts, performed an excerpt from the musical Big Fish as the role of Sandra Bloom, and Feldman took on the lead character of Frank Abagnale Jr. from Catch Me If You Can for his medley. Rapp was the winner for the regional Blumey Awards in North Carolina and Feldman won best actor at New York’s Roger Rees Awards.
Following the group performances, Rapp, Feldman, and six other finalists were selected by a panel of industry judges to perform solo numbers in front of the audience at The Minskoff. This year’s panel included casting directors Bernie Telsey and Tara Rubin, Nederlander Organization Executive Vice President Nick Scandalios, and Disney Theatrical Productions head Thomas Schumacher.
Named after the late legendary theater producer and owner James M. Nederlander, The Jimmys were created in 2009 by Nederlander Alliances LLC, Pittsburgh CLO, and the Broadway Education Alliance, with a mission to celebrate exceptional high school musical-theater performers. More than 100,000 students competed regionally to win a spot at the 2018 event. The evening was helmed by Jimmys cocreator Van Kaplan, marking his 10th year. For his decadelong commitment, Kaplan was honored with a special award presented by the president of The Broadway League, Charlotte St. Martin, and the president of The Nederlander Organization, James L. Nederlander.
In addition to the performers, the annual ceremony recognizes teachers who help mentor and instruct young artists. The 2018 Inspiring Teacher Awards went to Janine Papin, representing Trinity Preparatory School in Winter Park, Florida, and Nadine Love from William R. Boone High School in Orlando, Florida. Both ladies received honors for helping their students win the 2017 Jimmy Awards for Best Performance by an Actress (Sofia Deler) and Best Performance by an Actor (Tony Moreno).
Since the award ceremony’s inception, Jimmy performers have earned more than $2 million in university and conservatory scholarships, and a handful have gone on to take jobs in Broadway and West End productions.
Eva Noblezada, a 2013 Jimmy participant, notably scored the lead role of Kim in the 2014 London revival of Miss Saigon and later reprised the role on Broadway, where she earned a 2017 Tony nomination for best actress in a musical. Marla Louissaint, a 2015 Jimmy Award winner, is currently on the Broadway national tour of Beautiful: The Carole King Musical.
Both Rapp and Feldman received $10,000 to put toward their education, and Feldman was additionally awarded a precollege scholarship to a summer theater program at Carnegie Mellon University.
When asked how they were going to celebrate their accomplishments, both said that they couldn’t wait to share this honor with their families. As for returning to Broadway for more than just a night?
Without skipping a beat, Feldman responded, “I want to do this for the rest of my life.”
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