BWW Feature: At the Blumey Awards, High Schoolers Get The Spotlight
On Sunday night, the deafening cheers said it all.
As Northwest School of the Arts junior Rixey Terry walked across the stage to accept his award for Best Supporting Actor in the musical "Big Fish," all he could focus on was the electric blue seats sparkling under the house lights in the Blumenthal Theatre.
"In rehearsal yesterday, (choreographer) Linda Booth said something about how we're an army of love," he said in his acceptance speech. "Musical theatre brings people together, and it's a force of love. And that's so important right now."
Terry then promptly ran offstage to perform a number with his "Big Fish" cast. He said the excitement of performing on the Belk Stage never gets old.
That excitement was felt by students and teachers alike from the 46 high schools involved in the seventh annual Blumey Awards on Sunday night at the Blumenthal Theatre in Charlotte, N.C. The Blumey Awards, which are frequently cited as the Tony Awards for regional Charlotte high schools, aim to highlight the importance of musical theatre and to celebrate arts education within the community.
Each year, students and teachers compete in categories such as Best Direction, Best Choreography and Best Costume Design. The Best Actor and Best Actress nominees perform in medleys with songs from their respective shows, which are arranged by Broadway-arranger David Dabbon, who has worked with performers such as Audra McDonald and Lindsay Mendez.
The winners of the Best Actor and Best Actress categories get the opportunity to compete at the Jimmy Awards in New York City. This year's Jimmy Awards will be on June 25 at the Minskoff Theatre.
This year, the Blumeys' Best Actor winner Ethan Holtzman will get to perform in the Jimmys for his role of The Baker in "Into the Woods." Though this wasn't Holtzman's first year performing at the Blumeys - he was a Best Actor nominee in 2017 for his role as Bobby Child in "Crazy for You" - this year's Jimmys will be his first time performing on a Broadway stage.
"I'm so incredibly grateful and humbled and honored by the opportunity and by the platform," he said. "It's just such an honor. This is just such an absolute thrill to be able to share stories with everyone and to such a big audience. And with such a great group of guys, that just means the world to me."
For Holtzman, it is reassuring to know that he has support from Charlotte's Amina Faye. Faye not only won Best Actress in the 2016 Blumey Awards for her role as Sarah in "Ragtime," she then went on to compete at the 2016 Jimmy Awards and won the highest honor of Best Performance by an Actress.
Faye, a rising junior at Penn State, said that the Blumey Awards provided her a sense of community, but the Jimmy Awards showed her that musical theatre was her calling. She said that performing on the Minskoff stage was a surreal experience.
"It's just this sense of happiness," Faye said. "You just know you're doing the right thing. It was just like, 'This is what I want to do. I will be back.' It was that sense of, 'I will be doing this again.'"
And on Sunday night at the Blumenthal, many students involved in the Blumey Awards were already anticipating doing it again.
Ardrey Kell junior John Parker Demos, who won the Best Featured Performer award for his role as Clopin in "The Hunchback of Notre Dame," said the week-long rehearsal process for the Blumey Awards was exhausting, but the performance was like a dream come true.
"At the Belk Theatre, on Blumeys, there's not an easier crowd in the world," he said. "They're so nice and supportive, everyone's screaming. We're in this theatre and everyone's screaming - it's just great. It makes me want to do more and more and more and go for theatre and develop my skills and work on the craft and everything. It makes it all worth it."
After the awards, the lobby was filled with excited students performers and teachers, all embracing each other and dressed in ball gowns and suits.
On Monday morning, these kids who gave up their social lives for rehearsals and skipped sleep to learn lines for months headed to school. They stepped away from the bright stage lights and the cheering crowds to get on the bus in t-shirts and jeans.
But every year, for one Sunday night in May on the Belk Stage, these kids get to be stars.