Last Monday night at the New Vic theatre downtown bristled with the energy of 10 area high school students auditioning for a chance to compete in the National High School Musical Theatre Awards. The two winners selected at the end of the night then go on to the Jimmy’s in Los Angeles, which will get them one step closer to the finals in New York.
Hosted by actors Teri Bibb and Davis Gaines, both of Phantom of the Opera fame, the evening was split in to two parts. Part one showcased the 10 singers competing for two spots to go on to the next round, the Jerry Herman Awards at the Pantages Theatre in Hollywood. Part two was ensemble work from these same schools.
While Bibb and Gaines were great hosts, a big shoutout goes to veteran television writer, Cheri Steinkellner, whose witty, succinct script Bibb and Gaines read from kept the audience laughing and show moving along without a hitch.
The 10 competing students and the songs they sang are as follows: Theresa Wagner-Thompson, Thousand Oaks, “The Spark of Creation”; Kurt Kempe, Newbury Park, “Old Devil Moon; Valeria Rodgriguez Romo, Laguna Blanca School, “Nothing”; Bailey Durmin, St. Joseph’s, “Home”; Kathleen Jarvis, El Camino, “Green Finch and Linnet Bird”; Kat Monzon, L.A. County High School for the Arts, “On My Own”; Blake Brundy, Lompoc, “I Don’t Care Much”; Megan Wilson, San Marcos, “Cry Me a River”; Griffin Hughes, Oak Park, “It All Fades Away”; and Camille Umoff, Santa Barbara High School, “Writing on the Wall.”
All of the competing performers showed great stage presence and seemed right at home before the large appreciative audience. Four judges, all theater performers and academics, used five criteria to decide which two would go on to Los Angeles.
After intermission Bibb and Gaines sang “All I Ask of You” from Phantom. Their performance was a highlight of the evening as it was delightful to see two veteran thespians perform the show stopping tunes in such an intimate venue.
Before announcing the competition winners, Santa Bonaventure, San Marcos, Lompoc, and Laguna Blanca preformed ensemble numbers from Pippin, Crazy for You, Tarzan, and Young Frankenstein.
Bibb and Gaines then read the winners: Kat Monzon from Los Angeles County High School for the Arts and Blake Brundy from Lompoc High School. The closing number included all of the high schoolers and Bibb and Gaines singing, “What I Did for Love” from A Chorus Line.
The fun night was directed by Brian McDonald and produced by the Santa Barbara Independent, Ensemble Theatre Company, Rubicon Theatre Company, Nederlander, and the Santa Barbara Foundation.