Neither Milton High School graduate McKenzie Kurtz nor West Forsyth High School grad Nick Eibler took the top prizes at the seventh annual National High School Musical Theatre Awards in New York on Monday. But both nonetheless sounded like winners after the experience.
Kurtz, named best actress for her title role in Milton’s production of “Mary Poppins” in the Georgia High School Musical Theater Awards (also known as the Shuler Hensley Awards) in April, said, “Learning from some of the top professionals on Broadway and participating as a nominee … was one of the most incredible and rewarding experiences of my life.”
Added Eibler, who won the Shuler Award for his role as Jimmy Winter in West Forsyth’s production of “Nice Work If You Can Get It”: “I am so thankful that I was able to accomplish one of my dreams of performing on Broadway. I was honored to be able to learn from current Broadway performers, and will carry forward that knowledge as I pursue my musical theater degree starting this fall.”
The “Jimmy Awards,” as they are called, took place at Broadway’s Minskoff Theatre, hosted by two-time Tony Award winner Michael Cerveris, now on Broadway in “Fun Home” at Circle in the Square.
Kurtz. who will begin degree studies in musical theater at the University of Michigan this fall, and Eibler, who will pursue the same at Texas State University, participated in a week-long theater intensive that included private coaching, master classes and rehearsals. They competed against 50 other students representing 25 cities from across the U.S. for the Jimmy Awards as well as for scholarships, professional opportunities and other prizes.
Natalie Barrow, director of education and community outreach for ArtsBridge Foundation (formerly the Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre Foundation), accompanied Kurtz and Eibler.
“Watching McKenzie and Nick throughout the Nationals program has been so inspiring,” she said. “Their dedication and work ethic proves once again how valuable arts education is in our student’s lives.”
The best performance by an actress award was won by Marla Louissaint of the Beacon School in New York. Anthony Skillman of Orange Lutheran High School in Mission Viejo, Calif., took the actor prize.