Ben Platt Hosts 9th Jimmy Awards, Honoring the Best in High School Theater

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The National High School Musical Theatre Awards, affectionately nicknamed the Jimmy Awards after producer James M. Nederlander, returned to New York City’s Minskoff Theatre for its ninth annual ceremony on June 26, honoring the brightest young stars in musical theater from across the country.

This year’s show, hosted by Ben Platt, who is fresh off his 2017 Tony Award win, saw 74 high school students from 37 regional programs around the U.S.—the largest pool of competitors to date—vying for the coveted titles of best performance by an actor and actress.

The evening kicked off with a celebration of all things theater, featuring each young hopeful in a medley of tunes from current Broadway hits, including “Dear Evan Hansen,” “Hello, Dolly!,” and “Come From Away” (“Welcome to the Rock” was fittingly transposed with “Welcome to New York”). Additionally, competitors sang excerpted solos before eight finalists were selected.

Ultimately, top honors went to Sofia Deler and Tony Moreno, both from Orlando, Florida, and both representing the Applause Awards. Deler earned her spot at the Jimmys for her performance as Woman 1 in “Songs for a New World” at William R. Boone High School, while Moreno was selected for his portrayal of Don Quixote/Cervantes in “Man of La Mancha” at Trinity Preparatory School.

Both winners were awarded $10,000 toward their continued education, while the remaining finalists were respectively granted $2,500 scholarships.

The Jimmy Awards are the culmination of a weeklong intensive similar to a Broadway crash course, for which the 74 young talents are whisked to New York City where they train with Broadway luminaries and experts. This year’s contenders received coaching from stage stalwarts such as Adam Kantor, Howard McGillin, Andréa Burns, and Tony winner Randy Graff.

Additionally, the Jimmy Awards competitors were able to take in a Broadway show (the aforementioned “Come From Away”), which was, for some, their first-ever experience seeing a performance on the Great White Way.

Finalists for the awards arrive to New York having already won regional theater competitions before they participate in a series of judged performances. This year’s panel of judges included casting directors Rachel Hoffman, Tara Rubin, and Bernard Telsey, Tony-nominated actor Montego Glover, NYU Tisch School of the Arts’ New Studio Founding Director Kent Gash, and producers Kevin McCollum and Alecia Parker.

Founded in 2009 in a joint effort by Nederlander Alliances, Pittsburgh CLO, and the Broadway Education Alliance, the Jimmy Awards are “a national celebration of outstanding student achievement in high school musical theatre that recognizes individual artistry in vocal, dance, and acting performance.” The awards are presented by the Broadway League Foundation.

You can learn more about the Jimmy Awards at its website here.

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Casey Mink
Casey Mink is the staff writer at Backstage. When she's not writing about television, film, or theater, she is definitely somewhere watching it.
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