BWW Review: 2017 Triangle Rising Star Awards
For the second year in a row, I had the great pleasure of attending the Triangle Rising Star Awards at the Durham Performing Arts Center. This regional competition brings together high school musical theater students from Central and Eastern North Carolina to perform and compete for the chance to represent the Triangle in The National High School Musical Theater Awards in New York City this summer on June 26th. The national competition celebrates outstanding student performances in high school musical productions from all over the United States.
As the evening gets off to a great start with a mashup of 'Get Ready' and 'Dancing in the Streets' from Motown, the audience is already going crazy. This year's slate of contestants are literally an embarrassment of riches. There are so many wonderfully talented finalists who already seem so capable of performing in musical theatre. Some of my favorite highlights include Holly Spring High School's Ethan Baker as Raoul in The Phantom of the Opera; Jordan-Matthews High School's Jasmine Brower as Tevye (you've read that correctly) in Fiddler on the Roof; Southeast Raleigh Magnet High School's Taria Daughtridge as Adelaide in Guys & Dolls; Durham Academy's Ellie Dusek as Ilona in She Loves Me; Southeast Raleigh Magnet High School's Adam Green as Nicely-Nicely Johnson in Guys & Dolls; Cary High School's Chris Inhulsen as The Baker in Into the Woods; Hillside High School's Jordan Jarmon as the Scarecrow in The Wiz; St. Thomas More Academy's Paulette Perez as the title role in Aida; Ravenscroft School's Gabrielle Phillips as Millie Dillmount in Thoroughly Modern Millie; Wakefield High School's Cameron Ransome as Nancy in Oliver!; Durham Academy's Niall Schroeder as Georg in She Loves Me; and Durham Academy's Lily Tendler as Amalia in She Loves Me.
After all the finalists performed individually, all the girls gave a stunning rendition of 'I Can Hear the Bells' from Hairspray as a group, followed by the boys performing an energetic rendition of 'On Broadway', a number utilized in Smokey Joe's Cafe and Beautiful: The Carole King Musical. ABC 11's Heather Waliga then came out to present the award for Best Ensemble, where the winner was Leesville Road High School's production of Bring It On: The Musical. Waliga then introduced fellow sponsor, Marchael Bayne to present the award for Best Musical, which went to Heritage High School's production of Footloose.
Returning from last year's competition were winners Jacob Bush and Ainsley Seiger, where they both got to perform an amusing rendition of 'I Think I Got You Beat' from Shrek the Musical. The twenty four finalists were introduced one more time, and the two winners were revealed (with no envelope mishap) to be Clayton High School's Nicholas Kraft and Panther Creek High School's Kaylee Terrell. Kraft, who starred as Frank Abagnale, Jr. in his school's production of Catch Me If You Can was literally the final contest to perform in the first round with such a strong rendition of the song, 'Goodbye'. In his acceptance speech, Kraft admitted that he actually had laryngitis during that production, yet he was able to make it all the way. As for Terrell, she got to show off her skills as Elle Woods by belting out 'So Much Better' from Legally Blonde. The night ended with everyone performing Jonathan Larson's moving anthem, 'Seasons of Love' from Rent.
To Nicholas Kraft and Kaylee Terrell, I'd like to wish the two of you to break a leg at the Jimmy Awards in New York next month! Win or lose, you never know what may end up coming out of that. In 2013, a then 17-year-old girl from Charlotte by the name of Eva Noblezada competed at the Jimmy Awards, where she was spotted by casting director, Tara Rubin. She would end up getting Noblezada her first professional job in the coveted role of Kim in the West End revival of Miss Saigon. Four years later, Noblezada is now starring in Miss Saigon on Broadway, where she recently received her first Tony nomination for Lead Actress in a Musical, where she's up against Christine Ebersole, Patti LuPone, and Bette Midler. Overall, no matter what happens at this year's Jimmy Awards, I'm sure you both will have a great time.