High School Musical Talent on Stage at The Jerry Herman Awards

Photo by Margie Barron

On hand to cheer the talented high school musical students (from left) John Bowab, Nancy Dussault, Karen Morrow, Cathy Rigby, Obba Babatunda, Tracie Thoms, and Kenny Ortega, at the Jerry Herman Awards.

Congratulations to all the high school talent that graduated to the big stage when Los Angeles area students got to strut their stuff at Pantages Theatre. The Nederlander Organization hosted the 2nd annual Jerry Herman High School Musical Theatre Awards of Los Angeles last month at the historic Pantages. It was an impressive venue for the students to showcase musical numbers from their high school productions. They sang and danced throughout the three hour ceremony.

“It was an abundance of entertainment,” said renowned director-choreographer Kenny Ortega, who was the creative force behind the inspiring High School Musical Disney movie franchise. Ortega recalled, “When I was in high school we did West Side Story, and I only wish we had the dancers that I saw tonight.” He was referring to Calabasas High School students who performed “Cool” from their production of West Side Story. The students became the finger-snapping Jets and recreated Jerome Robbins classic choreography with such precision that they received a standing ovation.

Ortega was the first to leap to his feet, and he was also one of the celebrity judges for the evening, along with Cathy Rigby, John Bowab, Nancy Dussault, and Karen Morrow. They also presented awards to the Grand prize winning students Anthony Nappier from Arcadia High School (The Drowsy Chaperone) and Natalia Vivino from Santa Susana High School (13 the Musical). They both got a $1,000 cash prize and an all-expense paid trip to New York City for a chance to compete in The National High School Musical Theatre Awards in July.

Runners up for the evening included Gabriella Certo and Aaron Jacob from Chaminade College Preparatory, Mason Alexander from Ramon C. Cortes High School, and Katherine Steele from Agoura High School.

Other awards recipients for the evening included Trevor Berger (Chaminade) and Kelsey Reynolds (John Burroughs) for Best Actor and Actress respectively, Agoura High School (The Phantom of the Opera) for Best Orchestra, Claremont High School (The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee) for Best Ensemble, Oak Park High School (Les Miserables) for Best Musical Direction, and Milken High School (Monty Python’s Spamalot) for Best Technical Crew.

ABC7’s entertainment guru George Pennacchio was an enthusiastic emcee for the ceremony, and he received a special award for his “major contribution to arts awareness.” The Pantages general manager Martin Wiviott and actress Ruta Lee gave Pennacchio the honor.

Personalities from Broadway, film, and television also performed and presented at the event. They included Obba Babatunde, Shoshana Bean, Kevin Chamberlin, Sam Harris, Tracie Thoms, and Steven Weber.

In addition to West Side Story’s “Cool,” the awards show featured numbers from other great high school productions, including Arcadia High School performing “Toledo Surprise” from The Drowsy Chaperone; Royal High School performing “Not for the Life of Me” from Thoroughly Modern Millie; and Hollywood High School performing “96,000” from In The Heights.

The Jerry Herman Awards are a celebration dedicated to recognizing, encouraging, and rewarding achievements in high school musical theatre. It is the local award ceremony that selects the top talent to go on to the National High School Musical Theatre Awards, also known as The Jimmys, which take place annually at the Minskoff Theatre on Broadway in New York City. Every year two students are sent to New York to represent Los Angeles at The Jimmys to participate in a week long workshop and compete for the coveted Jimmy Award, named after the owner of the Pantages Theatre, James M. Nederlander.

Last year’s National High School Musical Theatre Awards were produced as a PBS special called Broadway or Bust. The Jerry Herman Awards, instituted by The Nederlander Organization, strive to stimulate new partnerships between theatres and the schools in Los Angeles while engaging entire families in the activities of their children and contributing to the development of future audiences for live performing arts. The Jerry Herman Awards also focus important attention on the work being done by dedicated teachers and celebrate kids with wide ranging talents on and off the stage. For information on next year’s awards (June 1, 2014) or to register your high school for participation, go to JerryHermanAwards.com.

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