Sunday, June 19th, 2013. It was the final performance of Hollywood High’s “In the Heights”. The cast and crew and parents were emotional and exhausted, but everyone had to change into their “red carpet clothes” as we were heading to the 2nd Annual Jerry Herman Awards at the Pantages immediately.
The Jerry Herman Awards is the local award ceremony for the National High School Musical Theater Awards, also known as the Jimmy’s, which are held annually on Broadway in New York City. Every year, 2 students are sent to New York to represent Los Angeles at the Jimmy’s. They participate in a week long workshop and compete for Jimmy Award (named after the owner of the Pantages Theater, James M. Nederlander). We just found out days before that the cast of “In the Heights” would be one of four schools performing numbers at the Pantages. No one really knew what to expect.
It was an amazing experience for all the students from all the 22 participating schools. Many kids and parents felt that it was “the Tony Awards for High Schools”. It certainly felt like it! George Pennacchio (entertainment reporter for ABC7) was the host and received his own award for his many years covering and supporting the arts locally. The judges were Kenny Ortega (Dirty Dancing choreographer and High School Musical director), John Bowab (stage and television director – including Mame), Nancy Dussault (Emmy Award winning singer and actress with multiple Tony nominations), Karen Morrow (award winning television and Broadway actress), and Cathy Rigby (Broadway actress for 29 years – most remembered for her portrayal of “Peter Pan”). We were thrilled by the celebrity performances and presenters: Sam Harris (“Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat”), Obba Babatunde (“Dream Girls”), Shoshana Bean (“Wicked”), Kevin Chamberlin (“The Addams Family”), Steven Weber (“The Producers”), Tracie Thoms (“Rent) and Joseph Gatt (“Star Trek – Into Darkness”).
There were performances from the top 6 finalists for leading actor and actress as well as production numbers from four schools: Arcadia High School - “Toledo Surprise” from The Drowsy Chaperone, Calabasas High School – “Cool” from West Side Story, Royal High School – “Not For the Life of Me” from Thoroughly Modern Millie, and Hollywood High School – “96,000” from In the Heights. Awards were given out for best achievement in performances and technical accomplishments on this year’s high school productions. I knew kids from several schools and they were all aware of their nominations a while ago. Hollywood High JUST had their musical the last two weekends though… so we figured that we were just there to perform. No one had told us we were being considered for any awards. When Kenny Ortega announced that “In the Heights” won for Best Musical, everyone was blown away!
This was a night that the Hollywood High school students will never forget. They were on the news (again) that night, but most of the kids were probably passed out from exhaustion to have seen it. Just another day in Hollywood…