Crystal Lake High School District 155 has its own version of the triple threat: three students representing the district in the finals of the first Illinois High School Musical Theater Awards.
Sam Babick and Sheila Wilhelmi, both seniors at Cary-Grove High School, and Jordan Puhala, a senior at Crystal Lake Central High School, are among the 24 state finalists who will audition in front of top theater professionals in Chicago next week for a shot at Broadway. The state finals take place Monday, May 7, at the Broadway Playhouse at Water Tower Place.
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"It means a lot to me because this is what I will be pursuing for the rest of my career," said Jordan, who will be attending Texas State University at San Marcos to study musical theater. "It's reassuring and a great feeling. I am excited to meet people who are just as passionate about musical theater as I am."
To prepare for the big show in Chicago, students will work with members of the national touring company of "Jersey Boys." Finalists will perform one solo song, as well as a group song that will close the awards show.
A panel of judges, which includes a talent agent, a member of the "Jersey Boy" cast, an artistic director and the vice president of Broadway in Chicago, will select one actor and actress to move on to the finals in New York City on June 25. The National High School Musical Theater Awards are known as The Jimmy Awards after legendary Broadway theater owner and producer James M. Nederlander.
Prizes and scholarships for the 2012 national award winners have not yet been announced.
But students from District 155 aren't looking too far ahead. There is stiff competition at the state level.
"We get a lot out of being finalists because we will work with cast members out of "Jersey Boys" who will teach us a dance and coach us before the big audition in front of the judges," said Sheila, who will attend the University of Wisconsin-Madison and major in music education. "They are important people from the industry. Even if we don't move on it will still be beneficial."
And Sam, who will major in theater at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, agrees.
"Even if I weren't to advance, it is so important to audition and perform in front of people you have never seen before," he said. "This experience will be really important."
Plus, the chance to work with and perform in front of professionals is a boon for the high school students and could result in that big break, said Rob Boncosky, the music department chairman at Cary-Grove High School.
"Winning or not, they will be performing in front of four people in the industry and you just never know," said Boncosky, who nominated the two Cary-Grove students.