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The Student News Site of Darien High School

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Katie Cavolo, Journalist • January 17, 2024
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What Do a Convict, a Sponge, and a Ghost All Have in Common? High School Theater, Of Course!

Get a backstage glimpse of the National High School Theater Awards, the Jimmy Awards, and learn how the magic unfolds.
The+Minskoff+stage+is+illuminated+by+the+glowing+Jimmy+Awards+projection.+Corbin+Bleu%2C+the+host+of+the+evening%2C+rehearses+his+lines+one+final+time.
Katie Koslow
The Minskoff stage is illuminated by the glowing Jimmy Awards projection. Corbin Bleu, the host of the evening, rehearses his lines one final time.

You’ve probably heard of the Grammys and the Oscars. Maybe you watch the Emmys or People’s Choice. But, you may be missing out on one of the biggest award shows of the year: The Jimmy Awards!

Often the Tony Awards are referred to as a theater-lover’s Super Bowl. However, the National High School Theater Awards-known as The Jimmy Awards- are coming to steal the title. In a Playbill article ‘From High School to Broadway: How Jimmy Awards Winners Become Theatre Stars’ written by Ryan Mcphee, the President of the Broadway League, Charlotte St. Martin, describes “‘With so many young people creating musical theatre, the Jimmys reflect how Broadway’s popularity continues to become part of our culture…It’s the real-life Glee.'” Year-round, students train in hopes of making it to the Jimmys, but there are a lot of steps standing in between them and the Broadway stage.

Before students can come close to making their Broadway debut, they have to be nominated for their regional awards program (RAP, for short). Representatives from RAPS across the country travel year-round to see their state’s high school productions, searching for the next greatest star! The Connecticut award show, known as The Stephen Sondheim Awards, nominates about eight best actors and eight best actresses each year based on their leading roles in their high schools’ musicals. These students will go through a week-long bootcamp and perform for a group of judges, all of which will culminate in two fantastic medley performances during the Sondheim Awards. From these sixteen contestants, only two will win and qualify for the Jimmys.

The nominees rehearse the opening number before they make their Broadway debut. They look hopefully into the sea of seats that will soon be filled with loved ones and fans. (Katie Koslow)

In June, ninety-six students from the U.S. fly to New York City, many of them having never been before. Throughout the week leading up to the day of the Jimmys they partake in rehearsals, educational opportunities, interviews with major networks, as well as exciting excursions to Sardis, a Broadway show, and to Times Square where they get to see their headshots on a billboard. During the few hours that they are not on their feet, the nominees stay in the dorms at Juilliard.

There is no feeling quite like the morning of the Jimmys. The students board buses en route to the Minskoff Theater, home to Broadway’s third longest-running show “The Lion King.” Filled with excitement and jitters, nominees walk under the marquee, dreaming of one day having their name up in lights. Then comes the much anticipated moment that they have been working for nearly all their lives: with tears streaming down their cheeks, the nominees step onto a Broadway stage for the first time.

2023 Jimmys nominees warm up in the Minskoff lobby on the day of the show. They take deep breaths, reflecting on their busy past week, while admiring the view of Times Square. (Katie Koslow)

After a day full of rehearsing at the Minskoff, the nominees receive their medals and prepare to make their Broadway debut. The first act of the show consists of a full-cast opening number, two themed tribute performances, about four medley groups, and introductions by a star studded list of presenters. In the second act, the semifinalists are introduced, followed by a series of unique special awards such as “Best Dancer” and the “Spirit of the Jimmys.” Lastly, the nominees gather in an arc around the stage, hand in hand, and the six finalists are announced. These finalists are quickly whisked away, and in a matter of moments one-by-one they hit center stage, illuminated by a single light, to perform their solo number. Their composure and calmness is truly admirable and highlights their extensive training in preparation for this very moment. Similar to the RAPS, only two nominees will win in the end- one actor and one actress. Though the winners receive a prize scholarship, more importantly the Jimmys provide them with exposure. Acclaimed Broadway performers such as Andrew B. Feldman, Eva Noblezada, and Reneé Rapp all got their start at the Jimmys, and very soon after they were cast in lead roles in major productions including “Dear Evan Hansen,” “Hadestown,” and “Mean Girls” respectively.

Each year, Darien High School’s Theatre 308 participates in the Stephen Sondheim Awards. Numerous 308 students have been nominated for best actor and best actress in past years at the Sondheims. In 2021, Jackson Wood even won best actor for their portrayal of Nick Bottom in Something Rotten, but the Jimmys were scaled-down and produced virtually due to Covid.

For more information on the Jimmy Awards visit: https://www.jimmyawards.com/

For more information on Theatre 308’s past awards visit: https://www.theatre308.org/awards

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About the Contributor
Katie Koslow, Pop Culture Editor
Katie is a senior who started writing for Neirad in the fall of 2021. She loves writing about the arts, particularly theater. Along with being a writer, Katie is the President of Theatre 308. When she’s not writing, she can be found taking dance classes, on stage in musical productions, and spending time with friends and family.

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