The winner of the best actress award at last year’s National High School Musical Theatre Awards now is starring as queen bee Regina George in “Mean Girls” on Broadway.
The winner of the best actor award at the same event now is playing the title character in the much-celebrated “Dear Evan Hansen,” also on the Great White Way.
That should tell you that these awards — administered by the Broadway League — are a big deal, even a life-changing event.
Two Nebraska teens — Drew Sinnard of Kearney and Piper Monson of Nebraska City — just returned from this year’s ceremony in New York City, held June 24 at Broadway’s Minskoff Theatre. They won the trip when they were selected as the top performers at the Nebraska High School Theatre Awards, presented by Omaha Performing Arts at the Holland Center on June 7. A third teen, Hannah-Kate Kinney of Omaha, also was there as one of two students who won a nationwide competition to be a broadcast reporter for the awards.
They all came home with enhanced dreams and valuable professional training.
“It was intense but it was a great experience,” said Sinnard, a recent Kearney High graduate who will attend the University of Central Missouri in Warrensburg this fall. “It has been my dream to even just take a step on a Broadway stage and I got to perform on one.”
“Each of us had a moment to shine with little solos,” said Monson, who recently graduated from Nebraska City Lourdes High School and will attend Nebraska Wesleyan University in Lincoln. Both plan to major in musical theater.
They rehearsed for a week to present a musical theater tribute at the awards show, which was livestreamed on Facebook and YouTube. The number included the original choreography from “A Chorus Line,” so their Broadway teachers and mentors meant business.
“It was tough because it was so precise,” Sinnard said. “Every inch matters in that number.”
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The Nebraska performers were among about 85 students from around the country who were competing for the best actor and actress awards. In addition to rehearsals, they also received private coaching from Broadway actors and vocalists and had talk-back sessions with producers, casting directors and others with theater careers.
Monson was thrilled to work with vocal coach Michael McElroy, who was nominated for a Tony Award for best featured actor in a musical for “Big River” in 2004.
“Getting to hear their side of things was a very interesting take,” Monson said. “Hopefully I’ll get to work with many of these people after high school. I want to pursue this as a career wherever it may take me.”
Kinney participates in musical theater at Omaha Westside, where she will be a senior. In fact, she will play Judy, the lead role, in “9 to 5” at school this fall. But on awards night, she was behind a microphone offstage rather than singing onstage. She shot video of preparations for the show, interviewed host Ben Platt, who originated the title role in “Dear Evan Hansen,” and interviewed award winners from 2018 and 2019 at an after-party, among other reporting duties.
She was thrilled to meet Platt, who also is known for his role in two “Pitch Perfect” movies.
“I tried to take in the entire experience because I knew it would be over soon,” said Kinney, who, unlike the other kids, worked only on the day of the ceremony. She was in New York City for several days, however, taking in Broadway shows.
“We stayed directly across the street from the Richard Rodgers Theatre, home of ‘Hamilton,’ my favorite show in the whole wide world,” she said.
Monson and Sinnard said they grew close to their fellow contestants in a very short time. In fact, Sinnard said the most important thing he learned over the week was not dance steps or vocal technique. It was relationships.
“How to make them and how important those things are in this business,” he said. “And to be a humble and nice person. That’s more important than how talented you are. You have to be humble and nice and easy to work with. Making connections and relationships early on is a priceless gift.”
NPR’s Susan Stamberg to help celebrate KIOS anniversary
Longtime National Public Radio correspondent Susan Stamberg will visit Omaha on Sept. 25 for an event that’s part of 50th anniversary festivities for KIOS-FM, Omaha’s NPR affiliate.
She will be featured in “An Evening With Susan Stamberg” at the Joslyn Art Museum. Tickets will be available at kios.org beginning July 13. KIOS, an entity of the Omaha Public Schools, was one of the founding member stations for NPR.
Stamberg is known for her friendly and down-to-earth interviewing style. She has had thousands of radio conversations with such public figures as Laura Bush, Rosa Parks, Billy Crystal and Dave Brubeck.
A roundup of inspirational stories from Midlanders with heart
There's the woman with MS who runs despite her diagnosis. The 7-year-old born without his left hand who plays baseball just like the other kids his age. The refugee who turned to Zumba to help her recover from cancer treatments. Check out their inspiring stories and others below.