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Review: 2022 Triangle Rising Star Awards at DPAC

Local young talent shines on stage at DPAC

Review: 2022 Triangle Rising Star Awards at DPAC

From the moment that the ceremony started with an upbeat rendition of "You Can't Stop the Beat" from HAIRSPRAY by the twenty finalists, it was clear that the 2022 Triangle Rising Star Awards was going to be something special. On Wednesday night, the show returned to DPAC to be held in person for the first time since 2019. The applause was loud and the atmosphere was electric as everyone cheered on some of the greatest young musical theatre talents of central North Carolina.

The Triangle Rising Star Awards are part of the National High School Musical Theater Awards, also known as the Jimmy Awards. These awards foster and celebrate young talent in musical theater across the United States and are pivotal to many future Broadway careers. To choose the nominees for the Triangle Rising Star Awards, a team of 25 judges attends high school productions throughout central North Carolina.

For the past few years, because of the effects of Covid on school theatre programs, both the Triangle Rising Stars and the Jimmy Awards have also accepted individual video submissions for the individual awards. The winners of the Best Actress and Best Actor awards receive a paid trip to New York City over the summer to participate in the Jimmy Awards and attend voice, acting, and dance classes with industry professionals.

Review: 2022 Triangle Rising Star Awards at DPAC
Host Clay Aiken

This year, local singing sensation Clay Aiken returned to host. He was working the crowd all night and getting into the fun of the evening. His enthusiasm for the Triangle Rising Stars program was infectious and it was great to see someone who clearly cares so much about the local theatre community hosting.

During Act I of the ceremony, all twenty finalists performed their solos (in costume!) and were judged by three amazing women: Yolanda Rabun, Lisa Jolley, and Terri Dollar. They were backed by a full live band and introduced by a video clip explaining why they chose their number and what musical theater means to them. It was amazing to see the variety of songs and shows chosen and to hear the touching sentiments about how many of them have found belonging and community in the theater.

Emily Hartsoe and Clark Phoenix from Longleaf School of the Arts gave fantastic performances of "The Secret of Happiness" and "Charity" from DADDY LONG LEGS. Alex Lim from Cary Academy gave a very funny rendition of "What Do I Need with Love" from THOROUGHLY MODERN MILLIE, with a thoughtful explanation of how he wanted to provide better Asian representation in a show that features Asian stereotypes. Hannah Watters from Heritage High School brought the house down with "Turn Back, O Man" from GODSPELL and Hannah Szemereta from Apex Friendship High School's "Practically Perfect" from MARY POPPINS was met with thunderous applause.

Review: 2022 Triangle Rising Star Awards at DPAC
Last year's winners ​​​​​Elena
Holder and Joshua Messmore

Both Brooke Willse of Wake Forest High School and Symoné Spencer of Enloe High School gave very distinct but very strong performances of "Don't Rain on My Parade" from FUNNY GIRL. Enloe was well-represented with several performers and Noah Colvin's "Santa Fe" from NEWSIES was another highlight. C.E. Jordan High School's production of BRIGHT STAR garnered lots of nominations and Ellie O'Connell did a touching rendition of "Way Back in the Day" complete with costume transformation.

In the second act, we were treated to two more group performances and the awards were given out. The students had only one week of rehearsal to prep their group numbers and each was impressive. Last year's winners Elena Holder and Joshua Messmore performed a sweet duet "Only Us" from DEAR EVAN HANSEN. Elena, who went on last year to win the Jimmy Award for Best Actress, also performed the hilarious "When He Sees Me" from WAITRESS.

The winners for all of the awards were also announced in the second act from the full show awards to the individual ones. C.E. Jordan High School's production of BRIGHT STAR was the big winner of the night, taking home Best Musical, Best Student Orchestra, and Best Set Design. You can find the full list of winners here. Joshua Thompson was awarded Best Dancer, voted separately by a team of dance professionals who only saw the students dancing, and the finalists themselves gave Emily Hartsoe the Triangle Shining Star award.

Review: 2022 Triangle Rising Star Awards at DPAC The climax of the night was certainly the awards for Best Actor and Best Actress, as the very much deserving winners will get to take part in the Jimmy Awards this summer. Joshua Thompson returned to the stage to collect his second award of the night. He is a junior at Weaver Academy and performed "Time" from TUCK EVERLASTING earlier in the night, though he also accepted the award for Best Costume Design for his school's production of ANASTASIA. Symoné Spencer, a senior at Enloe High School who was a part of Triangle Rising Stars last year as well, won the award for Best Actress.

The night concluded with a rousing rendition of "Raise You Up" from KINKY BOOTS. It was a fitting choice for a night celebrating a program that is dedicated to lifting up gifted young musical theatre performers in central North Carolina. Getting to witness the passion for theatre and warmth in the room was truly a gift and I can't wait to attend the awards ceremony for Triangle Rising Stars next year!

Make sure to check out my interview with the winners Symoné Spencer and Joshua Thompson.

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From This Author - Nicole Ackman