|The 2014 Lead Actor and Lead Actress nominees|
at the 5th Annual High School Musical Theatre Awards
As we told you last week, a tremendous amount of talent, hard work and dedication go into make the High School Musical Theatre Awards possible. The benefits to those participating are just as immense.
Alice Roberts, the Orpheum’s Vice President of Community and Education, brought the HSMTA program to the theatre six years ago – one year after the National High School Musical Theatre Awards program began. She said it was a natural trajectory for our department to embrace a program recognizing the talent of local high-schools students.
The National HSMTAs are the destination of the Lead Actor and Lead Actress winner at our own ceremony. Once chosen by our local judges, these two performers will go on to New York City in June to take part in the national showcase and competition.
With 30 programs across the country, our students join 58 others for workshops and coaching from current Broadway stars, directors, choreographers and more at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts. Starting June 24, these cream-of-the-crop students begin the process of creating and rehearsing a show that they’ll perform only four days later at Broadway’s Minskoff Theatre, the home of Disney’s The Lion King.
MacLean Mayers, last year’s local Lead Actor winner for his role as Edna Turnblad in Germantown High School’s production of Hairspray, says his experience at Tisch was “crazy.”
“You’re meeting all of these kids from across the nation, not just from Memphis,” he said. “You’re just as passionate – or they’re way more passionate than any other theatre person you’ve ever met in your life, and I think that’s really cool, meeting people are just as talented and more talented than you, and you’re getting to work with them for a week.”
The National HSMTAs are also a competition for the Jimmy Award, and among the judges are casting directors – the students who impress them could be looking at their big breaks. The winning Lead Actor and Lead Actress each are rewarded with prizes and scholarships – last year, the winners received $10,000 scholarships and an opportunity to attend Tisch School of the Arts.
Out of 60 students, only six performers – three per category – are chosen to contend for national Lead Actor and Lead Actress recognition. In 2011, Breyannah Tillman, the star of Ridgeway High School’s Aida, became a finalist in the national ceremony.
A total of 10 local students have gone through this life-changing experience with Broadway professionals:
2014: MacLean Mayers in Germantown High School’s Hairspray (Edna Turnblad) and Bethany Beckham in Evangelical Christian School’s Into the Woods (Witch)
2013: Russell Lehman in St. Mary’s Episcopal School’s Anything Goes (Billy Crocker) and Olivia Wingate in Hutchison School’s Into the Woods (The Baker’s Wife)
2012: Sam Shankman from Memphis University School’s The Producers (Leo Bloom) and Sabaa Sharma from Lausanne Collegiate School’s Once on this Island (Ti Moune)
2011: Paul Powers from Briarcrest Christian High School’s Les Miserables (Jean Valjean) and Breyannah Tillman in Ridgeway High School’s Aida (Aida)
2010: Prentiss Mouton from Ridgeway High School’s Footloose (Reverend Shaw) and Alexis Tarver from Briarcrest Christian School’s Beauty and the Beast (Belle)
“It’s something I never would have experienced if I didn’t get to do the Orpheum high school musical awards,” Mayers said.
See each of our winning Lead Actor and Lead Actresses in the National HSMTA playbills aft nhstma.com. Join us May 11 to see which performers will take home the prize and start their Broadway journey at the Orpheum’s 6th Annual High School Musical Theatre Awards.
Watch last year's Lead Actor and Lead Actress medleys on the Orpheum's YouTube page.