Broadway-Caliber Kids at The Jerry Herman High School Musical Theatre Awards

Jerry Herman Awards judges (from l) Cathy Rigby, Nancy Dussault, John Bowab, Kay Cole and Brad Ellis.

Jerry Herman Awards judges (from l) Cathy Rigby, Nancy Dussault, John Bowab, Kay Cole and Brad Ellis.

High school students graduated to the ranks of “future Broadway stars,” according to ABC7’s entertainment guru George Pannacchio. The students were part of the Broadway-caliber class of talent that was showcased at the 3rd annual Jerry Herman Awards, hosted by Pannacchio. The show was presented by the Nederlander Organization and Hollywood’s Pantages Theatre, and the winners were announced for the High School Musical Theatre Awards named after the acclaimed musical composer Jerry Herman.

Pannacchio said the awards “focus much needed attention on the meaningful work being done by today’s dedicated teachers, and also celebrates the kids with wide ranging talents on and off the stage.”

Joining the students on stage to hand out the awards and perform were celebrities from Broadway, film, and television. Presenters included Shirley Jones, Peyton List, Kevin Chamberlin, Obba Babatunde, George Chakiris, Russ Tamblyn, Monty Hall, Renee Marino, Richard Chamberlain and Ben Vereen. Judges for the evening included John Bowab, Nancy Dussault, Brad Ellis, Kay Cole and Cathy Rigby.

A local favorite, the talented performers from Burbank’s John Burroughs High School grabbed the spotlight when they did the “Sit Down, You’re Rockin’ the Boat” number from this year’s production of Guys & Dolls. The awards show also included musical numbers from other participating high school productions this season. The Academy of Music at Hamilton High School performed the title song from Anything Goes; Mira Costa High School performing “Ugg-A-Wugg” from Peter Pan, and Los Angeles County High School of the Arts performing the title song from Footloose.

With such tremendous talent on hand it was tough for the judges. They had to pick the winning students to compete in the National High School Musical Theatre Awards (also known as the Jimmy’s), at Broadway’s Minskoff Theatre. Two students are sent to NYC, and this year the grand prize went to Joshua Velez from Harts Academy (Pippin) and Ayla Stackhouse from Ramon C. Cortines School of Visual & Performing Arts (In The Heights).

Best actor and actress runners up included Sawyer Patterson from John Burroughs High School, Kelsey Smith from LA County High School of the Arts, Nick Sparks from Oakwood High School and Julia McDermott from Mira Costa High School. Notre Dame Academy’s Luelle Robles won the “No Small Parts” Award for her role in Hairspray. The evening’s highest number of awards went to Mira Costa High School’s production of Peter Pan which received four awards for Best Musical, Best Musical Direction, Best Lighting Design and Best Ensemble.

The Ed Lester Lifetime Achievement Award was presented this year to Paul G. Gleason, who danced in MGM’s Silk Stockings. The musical theater veteran inspired the high school musical-loving crowd at the end of his acceptance by tap dancing off the stage.

Also at the Pantages Theatre is a fantastic production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, which runs through June 22. It stars lovely songbird Diana DeGarmo and dynamic Ace Young as Joseph. The rock-pop musical is an early work from the composing team of Andrew Lloyed Webber and Tim Rice, and it’s a popular choice for high school productions. No doubt a must-see for the kids from the Jerry Herman Awards.

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