Sarah Lynn Marion of Fullerton, Calif., and Taylor Varga of Norwich, Conn., took home the awards for best actress and best actor at the National High School Musical Theater Awards on Monday night.
"This is unreal," Marion said, accepting her award. She won for her performance as Dolly in "Hello, Dolly!" at Huntington Beach High School Academy for the Performing Arts, and Varga won for his portrayal of J. Pierrepont Finch in "How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying" at Newton High School. "This would be impossible if it weren't for the people I met here this week," Marion added.
At a ceremony hosted by the stars of "Rodgers + Hammerstein's Cinderella" Laura Osnes and Santino Fontana at the Minskoff Theatre, the awards, affectionately called the Jimmy Awards, recognize the best in high school musical theater. Sixty-two students who had won their respective regional competitions across the country come to New York to for a five-day training program with theater professionals, and on Monday, each performed a short solo from their winning role.
While there are usually only six finalists, this year the judges (director Scott Ellis, New York University's Kent Gash, actor Montego Glover, casting director Rachel Hoffman, producer Alecia Parker, Nederlander VP Nick Scandalios, and casting director Bernie Telsey) honored seven students. The semi-finalists were Michael Burrell of Mission Viejo, Calif.; Jillian Caillouette of Norwich, Conn.; Austin Crute of Atlanta; Martha Hellerman of Madison, Wisc.; and Eva Maria Noblezada of Charlotte, N.C.
Each winner received $10,000 and eligibility for a four-year scholarship to NYU Tisch School of the Arts. Each runner-up received a $2,500 scholarship.
"These kids remind us of why we got into the theater," said Van Kaplan, the director of the awards.