The National High School Musical Theatre Awards, also known as The Jimmys, are the Tonys for teenagers

By Dave Quinn
June 25, 2018 04:25 PM
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They dream of one day performing on a Broadway stage. And on Monday night, 80 of the top high school musical theater performers will get their chance when they hit New York City’s Minskoff Theater for the National High School Musical Theater Awards.

Now in its tenth year, the awards — dubbed “the Jimmys,” after its co-founder and sponsor James M. Nederlander — are like the Tonys for teenagers.

Participants, each who have already won awards in a sea of regional competitions, show off their talents in a series of group performances throughout the night. Finalists are chosen for solos before the year’s “best actor” and “best actress” are awarded from a panel of Broadway judges.

What’s at stake? College scholarships, cash prizes, and a chance to catch the attention of a Broadway casting director or two.

Here are five things you need to know about The Jimmys:

1. Making it to the main stage requires hard work

The 2017 Jimmy Awards
Henry McGee/NHSMTA

Not only do competitors need to win their individual regional competitions — of which an estimated 100,000 high students participate! They’ve also got to survive a ten-day intensive rehearsal program at NYU Tisch School of the Arts’ New Studio on Broadway. There, they’re coached by some of the industry’s biggest stars, including faculty members plus other theatre professionals. Vocals to rehearse? New choreography to learn? And a whole new city to take in? It’s a jam-packed schedule.

2. The opening numbers are a tribute to Broadway’s best

Kicking off the show every year, all nominees gather together for a mega-song that incorporates tunes from a handful of shows running on the Great White Way (and a few of the ones from the history books). Can’t make it to Dear Evan Hansen, Waitress, or Hamilton? Look for cuts in the opening numbers.

3. But it’s really all about the medleys

Jean Valjean singing with The Phantom; Tracey Turnblad trading bars with Elle Woods… by far, the best part of The Jimmys are their legendary medleys, which pool best actor and best actress nominees together (and the characters they played) for an epic mashup. Most are viewable on YouTube if you want to travel through the archives.

4. The Jimmys can lead to big things

Eva Noblezada
Evan Agostini/Invision/AP

Eva Noblezada was on one of five finalists for the 2013 National High School Musical Theatre Awards when a casting director in the audience noticed her talent. Next thing she knew, the then-17-year-old was auditioning in front of famed producer Cameron Mackintosh. She’d go on to lead the West End revival of Miss Saigon, and then the transfer the production to Broadway — which earned her a nomination for a 2017 Tony award for best actress in a musical.

The current Broadway season includes three Jimmys’ alums: Jai’Len Christine Li Josey (SpongeBob SquarePants The Musical), Kyle Selig (Mean Girls), and Nathan Salstone (Harry Potter and the Cursed Child).

5. They’re being streamed for the first time ever

The 2017 Jimmy Awards
Henry McGee/NHSMTA

Can’t make it to New York City to see the show? No worries. For the first time in history, the Nederlander Alliances, Pittsburgh CLO and Broadway Education Alliance, and the Broadway League Foundation (all whom jointly founded the show) are streaming the show on Facebook.

With support from 2017 Tony Award-winning best musical Dear Evan Hansen and Wells Fargo, the livestream will include the entire show — hosted by Tony winner Laura Benanti — as well as special content for those watching online. The event kicks off at 7:30 p.m. ET.