Interview: The Talented Trio of the Broadway San Diego Awards

The Broadway San Diego Awards is Sunday, May 26th at 6pm at the Balboa Theatre

By: May. 24, 2024
Interview: The Talented Trio of the Broadway San Diego Awards
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Interview: The Talented Trio of the Broadway San Diego Awards

The Broadway San Diego Awards celebrates some of San Diego’s most talented high school performers and sends two to New York to compete on a Broadway stage at the national Jimmy Awards competition.  This awards competition is packed full of talent both on and off stage and is a labor of love for the team that helps put it together.  Vanessa Ybarra Davis, Vice President of Broadway San Diego, Joey Landwehr, Artistic Director for the Broadway San Diego Awards, and Nicole Ries, Broadway San Diego Awards Production Manager talk about how this program and competition have all come together over the last ten years, and what to expect from this year's 11th competition and beyond.

The Broadway San Diego Awards is a year-long program, with participating school's musicals and their cast being eligible to be nominated for the awards.  Adjudicators see the shows at the schools and determine the final contestants for the awards competition. The top ten male and female performers compete in a two-day competition, culminating in a final show,  performances from the top 5 musical nominees in front of an audience, and a panel of different judges who choose the two winners who will go to New York.

Turns out, like the talented students in the program, everyone involved in this process has learned and grown along with the competition over the years.

When I was first called to work on the awards, it was very different.  We and it have evolved over time and over the years, we have continued to ask ourselves questions about the focus.  I feel like we're finally in a spot where the awards are exactly what they're intended to be.

It's a week that is focused on really concentrated master classes for these young artists, where they get to get a taste of what it's like to rehearse and perform on a Broadway stage.

They get to meet and be inspired by artists and we get a lot of special guests that are part of national tours that will stop in and have special master classes with them and inspire them. The awards show that it really works to make it focused on the journey of each of these artists and supporting them instead of the spectacle of the show.   I think it's been reflected in the show” - Nicole Ries

Interview: The Talented Trio of the Broadway San Diego Awards
Nicole Ries

Nicole and I, I always bring her in because she's like my other part of me -the better part of me.  We always rethink things and challenge ourselves every year and try to figure out, you know, how we're going to make this journey anew.

Most importantly every year the kids are different. Every year, I'm not only surprised by our winners, but I'm also surprised by our top 20. They brilliantly navigate with us and really take the teachings that we bestow on them to heart and it's really lovely.

When we have returning students, it's fascinating because we can look  back to what they did last year and how we can improve upon that  and how their growth can bring us another direction” - Joey Landwehr

When you have Joey as the Artistic Director and Nicole Ries as Production Manager you just get out of the way! It’s been exciting because the students are now more familiar with it and they anticipate the information coming out. It’sf great to hear these students come to their teachers who want to come to us. That was awesome, because you know they're invested if they're taking it to their teachers.” - Vanessa Ybarra Davis

Interview: The Talented Trio of the Broadway San Diego Awards
Vanessa Ybarra Davis

Under the leadership and guidance of all three, this program has also grown more nuanced in exploring and nurturing collaboration between the performers and expanding opportunities for people interested in production and behind-the-scenes positions in theatre.  

“We added a program where each high school, the stage managers that worked on the shows that applied to be adjudicated, interviewed, and then they were able to work with me that week.  That's something that's coming back this year that I'm excited about because it's more than just the performers and our local high schools that need to be supported and given professional level opportunities as they're graduating high school.” - Nicole Ries

This program is not only adding needed professional mentorship for these essential professions, but they are an invaluable experience investing in the student's future.  Abby Vitton, who worked with Nicole previously when she was a student at the awards, is now a production manager for San Diego Theatres which includes the Balboa Theatre

Interview: The Talented Trio of the Broadway San Diego Awards
Joey Landwehr

The collaborative focus for performers is also a life lesson, it’s not always just about who can hit the high note or do the tap step -in this industry, it pays to strive to be someone who can work with others and whom others want to work with as well.

“ We realized that it's about creating a community for these kids that they'll have for the rest of their lives because it's so much about the journey rather than it is the destination.

If you are a good person to work with know people remember you and they're like -they were great,  nice to work with, and they understood the industry.  That goes so far as opposed to just being able to hit that one big high note.

Even if they don't go on to win the top two they will remember this week and a half with us for the rest of their lives. That’s what's exciting about how what we're doing now we're trying to focus on becoming your best your best person your best performer.” - Joey Landwehr 

These years nominees in alphabetical order are:

Best Actor Nominees

Best Actress Nominees

Gavin August – San Diego School of Creative & Performing Arts

Anessa Ali – Canyon Crest Academy

Randy Castillo – Coronado School of the Arts

Shira Ehrlich – Westview High School

Carlos Gomez – Rancho Bernardo High School

Zara Exconde – San Diego School of Creative & Performing Arts

Spencer Kearns – San Diego School of Creative & Performing Arts

Chloe Flores – Mt. Carmel High School

Quinlan King – Coronado School of the Arts

Kathryn Hansen – Rancho Bernardo High School

David Landis – Pacific Ridge School

Grace Howard – Cathedral Catholic High School

Justin Lee – La Costa Canyon High School

Corinne Milling – Poway High School

Demian Naveen Deonarine – Scripps Ranch High School

Uma Richard – Classical Academy High School

Ethan Roach – Classical Academy High School

Mia Rivera – San Diego School of Creative & Performing Arts

Tyler Sanderlin – Del Norte High School

Danica Singer – Steele Canyon High School

The Top Five Best Musical Nominees (in alphabetical order):

  • Classical Academy High School - The Addams Family
  • Mt. Carmel High School - Into The Woods
  • Rancho Bernardo High School - Shrek The Musical
  • San Diego School of Creative & Performing Arts - Guys and Dolls
  • Santa Fe Christian School - May We All

The Broadway San Diego Awards lead to the New York Jimmy Awards, where the winners from across the nation work together for a week and then have a final performance and competition on a Broadway stage and in front of industry professionals.  A priceless opportunity for them all, regardless if they win or not.  Renee Rapp, Andrew Barth Feldman, and Eva Noblezada are just some competition alumni who can be seen on Broadway, national tours, and the big screen.  Combining the performance aspect of the competition along with allowing opportunities outside of the spotlight to learn their craft has proven to be a winning combination for everyone in the industry.

“There is so much work on the other side of proscenium and you can make a life in art. If you don't want to be on stage or if that's not where you're calling is, you can be surrounded by creative and performing adults who are choreographers, stage managers, and more. I cannot thank the Broadway San Diego team enough, I am constantly amazed by them and how much passion and fun they bring every day.  - Vanessa Ybarra Davis

The Broadway San Diego Awards and  Broadway San Diego presenting shows throughout the year would not be possible without the amazing staff of Broadway San Diego and the Balboa Theatre.  

Cheer on all of the talented people that are a part of this competition on Sunday, May 26th at 6pm at the Balboa Theatre.  For ticket information go to

Photo Credits: Broadway San Diego 


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