Onstage and offstage high school musical theater performers from throughout Georgia will be recognized.
The award-winning leading actor and actress will be eligible to compete this summer in the National High School Musical Theater Awards on Broadway in New York City.
The Georgia High School Musical Theater Awards will air on ME-TV, WSB-TV’S digital channel and can be viewed on Channel 248 on Comcast on Channel 127 on Charter. The Shuler Student Ensemble, representing the schools participating in this year’s competition, performs the opening and finale production numbers.
Barkley Russell, public relations consultant at Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre, said 47 schools in Georgia have been nominated in 16 categories, and a total of 73 ensemble members are participating.
“We have over 40 judges that adjudicate the shows,” Russell said. “All of them have backgrounds in some form of performing arts.”
Each school performance is judged by three adjudicators who submit scores and written evaluations for each award category, Russell said. After the last school production has been scored, the judges meet and review the final numbers. School production videos are viewed to help determine the award recipient. Nominees were announced March 28.
The program is an initiative of the ArtsBridge education program of the Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre Foundation.
Tony-award winning actor Shuler Hensley, whom the award is named after, will perform onstage with the student ensembles. The Marietta actor, who has been honored on Broadway and featured on the big screen, hosts the awards every year.
“I host it, but I’m actually the biggest fan of it,” Hensley said. “These kids are just amazing.”
In 1992, Hensley received theater’s highest honor when he won the Tony Award for best actor as Jud in the revival of “Oklahoma.”
Hensley’s most recent performances include an off-Broadway play called “The Whale” in New York City and “Fiorello” at New York City Center Encores! From May 25 to June 23, Hensley will play the Critic in “The Guardsman” at the Kennedy Center in Washington.
Not only will student performers take home a shiny trophy, but they will also receive scholarships including the Broadway Dreams Foundation’s Performance and Technical Scholarships, Doris Corrie Russell Dance Scholarship and the Morrell Memorial Music Scholarship. The Jubilee Cultural Arts Alliance will give a grant for scenic design.
“(The awards show) gives these kids a chance to earn money,” Hensley said. “The two kids who are awarded best actor and best actress go on to the national awards. The winners get a scholarship to NYU.”
Through the show’s ensembles, the students get the opportunity to perform on a larger scale.
“This is just another opportunity to celebrate and meet other kids all over the state who are interested in theater,” he said. “It’s just a huge show. It’s just magic to them. Any kid who has a desire to perform in the theater — this gives them the opportunity to see what it’s like.”
But the young actors aren’t the only ones who get a thrill from the Tony Awards-like show.
“It’s a guilty pleasure for me. I get the chance to go back and remember what it’s like to be their age and see the magic of the theater,” Hensley said. “You see it in their eyes when they’re onstage. Its just a euphoric moment. After the show, I feel excited and inspired and it just re-invigorates me.
“Every year, it just gets more and more involved. It’s the best opportunity for these kids to see what a top-knotch performance is all about.”