This last Monday, I was given the privilege to cover the Illinois High School Musical Theatre Awards. I love the showcase of so much talent throughout the state from students that are so young and still so passionate in their craft. My ultimate favorite part of the ceremony, however, is seeing two deserving students be chosen to compete in the Jimmy Awards! In my free time, I binge the Jimmy Awards’ medleys and solo videos on YouTube with a bowl of knock-off goldfish (times are hard). These are the Broadway stars of tomorrow, what’s not to love?! Being able to report on the #BICihsmta gave me a first-hand look into the rehearsal experience, and the juicy IHSMTea that would be spilt. Not to my surprise, there was actually no tea, no tension, no drama in the room when I arrived at the Broadway Playhouse. Just finishing up auditions, the nominees were merely ECSTATIC and full of crazy amounts of energy. It was like someone grabbed the most hyper puppies from around the state, and put them in a room full of squeaky-toys and homework. They were mingling and helping one another with the choreography they had learned that morning and most importantly, making friends.
I began my experience by first meeting with the Broadway In Chicago/IHSMTA team and gaining access to the Instagram account for the day. I then made a point to meet every nominee I did not already know. Luckily, I had met a good handful of the contestants from either ILMEA Choir, Theatre Fest, or the All-State Productions. One nominee is my best friend from my high school (shout out to Ben Dow; what a guy). The remaining members were all extremely friendly and not hesitant to do any weird interview question I asked. I began to interview, slowly easing into the fun energy that surrounded me. It started with sincere questions about how the nominees were feeling, but I realized the time for focus was on halt. They all deserved a fun time to relax before the dress rehearsal; therefore, I just asked them to meme with me and chat with me and I forced a few to dance. You know…the usual. Everyone had no issue being goofy and joking around for the camera because they’re theater kids: the most social and most interesting people on the planet.
The time for the Illinois High School Musical Theatre Awards had arrived!. I grabbed my seat, and watched the lights go down in the house and up on the stage. The three male and three female nominees were announced and I genuinely felt like my child was a finalist. I was so excited for Natalie Doppelt (whom I’ve known for a near 2 years), Carly Meyer (whom I met briefly when I attended her production of Fiddler on the Roof), and Tatum Langley (whom I had only met that night). The same goes for Justin Smusz (whom I met at ILMEA Conference), Dominic Cappuccilli (whom I met briefly when I attended his production of City of Angels), and Jordan Radis (whom I only found out existed when I met him that day). All six finalists gave me chills and made me cry, regardless of how long I had known them, like my babies were graduating from college or won a Tony or something. At the end, I jumped for joy when Carly and Justin were crowned as winners. I got to congratulate them personally, along with York Community High School for winning “Best Production”, Lauren Condon & Brian Wand from Benet Academy for winning “Best Direction”, and Cary-Grove High School for winning “Best Scenic Design”. My favorite part of the night was guiding Justin Smusz to the office to be interviewed, but listening to his excitement as he tried to thank everyone in the lobby.
The overall experience was an absolute joy, making teens dance, making adults scream in excitement,, and most importantly making all my viewers smile. That is what makes The High School Musical Theatre Awards my favorite time of year…and that the world knows me as “Natertot” now, so that’s a plus. I’d like to thank Broadway In Chicago, and the entire Illinois High School Musical Theatre Awards staff who chose me for this position and made the experience one to remember. Thanks for everything.