Two Los Angeles area high school students won a chance to perform on Broadway after claiming the top spots in the regional round of the National High School Musical Theater Awards.
The final round of the five-year-old competition, whose awards are known as the Jimmys, will take place at Broadway’s Minskoff Theatre in New York City July 1.
The Southern California winners, who were participating in the 2nd annual Jerry Herman Awards staged by the Pantages Theatre and Nederlander Organization May 19, were Natalia Vivino of Santa Susana High School for best female actor and Anthony Nappier from Arcadia High School for best male actor.
Both performers took home a $1,000 cash prize plus an all-expenses-paid trip to New York. While in Manhattan, the national finalists will also get five days of private coaching, master classes, and rehearsals with theater professionals.
Judges for the Jerry Herman Awards, which are the local round of the National High School Musical Theater Awards, were director John Bowab, actors Nancy Dussault, Karen Morrow and Cathy Rigby, and Kenny Ortega, who directed the "High School Musical" trilogy.
Ortega said the event helped raise the profile of Los Angeles theater. "This brings a lot of attention to theater here in Los Angeles and there's great theater in Los Angeles," he told Backstage. He advised the winners against skipping college to try their luck at acting professionally.
"Get as much education as you can," he said. "They've got to raise the bar. They have to bring theater into the next generation. These kids represent the future of the American theater for the generations to come."
The runners up in the acting category were Gabriella Certo and Aaron Jacob from Chaminade College Preparatory, Mason Alexander from Ramon C. Cortes High School and Katherine Steele from Agoura High School. Awards were also given out to local schools for Best Musical and Best Choreography, in addition to the acting honors.