Billboard on Broadway Podcast: It's Time for the Teen Tonys, The Jimmy Awards!

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A group of last year's (2017's) Jimmy Awards nominees.

It's been a couple of weeks since the annual theater community hoopla around the Tonys, but there's more awards show excitement to come Monday night (June 25) for the musical theater faithful: the National High School Musical Theatre Awards, a.k.a. the Jimmy Awards.

Each year, 100,000 high school students from across the country participate in regional competitions, with 40 regions sending their winners to New York City in June. Those 80 nominees participate in an intensive weeklong training with industry professionals in advance of one mega-performance at Broadway's Minskoff Theatre, after which a Best Actor and Best Actress are chosen, winning college scholarships. This year's ceremony, hosted by Laura Benanti, is especially exciting: It's the 10th annual Jimmys, and the show will be live-streamed on Facebook for the scores of Jimmys fans who haven't scored a coveted ticket to the main event. In advance of the show, three Broadway vets who have longstanding Jimmys ties -- coaches Adam Kantor and Schele Williams and past judge Montego Glover -- visited the Billboard on Broadway podcast to share what it's like to be in the middle of the Jimmys madness.

"The energy is through the roof," says Kantor. "They're looking around themselves in complete awe at their fellow students, and at us their coaches who have had the Broadway careers they dream about. They get to learn directly from us, and frankly we learn a lot from them. It's an equal inspiration machine. And then they get to perform on a Broadway stage!"

"They also get introduced to the rigor," Williams adds. "Because they work hard. It's a sensory overload."

As Kantor notes, the same forces that have made Broadway more "accessible, attainable and desirable as an art form" lately -- namely YouTube and social media -- have also made interest in the Jimmys explode. "You can live anywhere and be exposed to Broadway now," he says. Glee, too, Williams says, "showed a lot of young people a place where they belong. I think it's a little hard to navigate when you're in towns where you're not like everyone else. You find the local theater and realize this is a safe space." 

The trio go on to discuss how Jimmys finalists choose the songs they'll perform at the Minskoff and the variations in ability among the diverse group. "Even if you have a kid who is not as comparatively strong as his or her colleagues, the fact that they are doing it is the empowering thing," Glover says. "What's extraordinary in one city is very different three states over. The kids are just in a different place, but they're all working just as hard. It's all good, and it's all relative. The potential is always there; it's just in different places depending on the kid."

Past Jimmys participants have included 2017 Tony nominee Eva Noblezada (Miss Saigon) along with cast members of current Broadway shows Mean Girls, SpongeBob SquarePants, and Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. Listen to host Rebecca Milzoff's chat with Kantor, Williams and Glover before this year's stars-in-the-making emerge!


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