National High School Musical Theater Awards – The Jimmy’s

Note from the editor: Our intern for the summer, Madeline O’Brien, shares her experience of working on the 5th Annual National High School Musical Theater Awards!

Prior to this summer, I had never been involved in the National High School Musical Theater Awards. But Camp Broadway allowed me to throw myself right into the thick of it a week and a half after starting my summer internship – and named me, along with Kerry Dineen, the production assistants! We began on June 25th organizing binders upon binders of sheet music for the nominees, accompanists, judges, and our own personal use. But the moment we reached Tisch (our rehearsal space for the week) and the nominees arrived with their chaperones, the Jimmy’s began in full force.

I was struck immediately by the humble, mature nature of our 62 competitors; one could so easily sense that these teens were here because they were driven by an intense passion. They did not believe they were entitled to any special treatment – they simply wanted to work.  This level of professionalism and empathy made our jobs incredibly enjoyable! I looked forward to arriving early in the morning and helping lead the kids through their insanely busy days of rehearsals. I savored my walks from the downstairs common area, used by chaperones and staff when work was light, to the upstairs Pittsburgh CLO office; wandering through the studio halls allowed me to hear the nominees singing their hearts out. Largely, Camp Broadway’s role over the course of the week stayed rooted in making sure everything ran smoothly. We often ran errands to Staples to make copies of sheet music, and to clothing stores to pick up various costume pieces. We distributed signs around NYU’s rehearsal spaces to guide the nominees and chaperones to the studios, restrooms, and common area. And Sunday evening, most of us were privy to the nominees’ solo performances for the judges, an extremely nerve-wracking event. I was responsible for the kids as they prepared to take the black box “stage,” so to speak, which was a moving experience in itself. Their dedication and excitement, peppered with a fair amount of nervousness, was palpable throughout the halls and infused even the staff with anticipatory butterflies.

Monday morning arrived and we were off to the Minskoff, home to Broadway’s The Lion King. I couldn’t shake my star-struck emotions, even after spending several hours backstage. At one point, unable to resist, I even devised a reason to walk across the Minskoff stage just to be able to say I had! Preparing for a show in a Broadway theater was an experience I will not soon forget, and while Camp Broadway employees found ourselves busy with the usual pre-show errands, everybody seemed to have ratcheted their focus up a level. The day passed by all too quickly, and at 7:30 pm, the Minskoff lights dimmed and 62 visibly excited nominees took the stage. I found myself in tears the moment they began singing, and suddenly became overwhelmed with the sense that Camp Broadway, The Nederlander Organization, Pittsburgh CLO, and the Minskoff Theater had created magic. We facilitated the Broadway debuts of some of the most deserving teenagers in the country, and watched Taylor Varga and Sarah Lynn Marion receive their crowning titles of Best Actor and Best Actress. Only one sight was more rewarding than the looks on their faces when their names were announced as winners: those of their fellow competitors, in tears themselves with glee over their new-found friends’ successes and the importance of this night in all of their lives and future careers. I could not have asked for a more wonderful, well-rounded, emotionally thrilling experience than the one Camp Broadway gave me in bringing me on as a production assistant for the National High School Musical Theater Awards!

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