Meet Emily and Rayven, our 2015 Jimmy Award nominees!
Two student performers from the Milwaukee area, both recipients of Overture’s Tommy Awards for Outstanding Lead Performance, will represent Wisconsin in the weeklong National High School Musical Theatre Awards competition in New York City later this month.
Emily Matt of Waukesha, a senior at Divine Savior Holy Angels High School, and Rayven Burdette, a junior at Wauwatosa West High School, were chosen from among 29 Tommy Award recipients who auditioned recently. They will travel to New York toward the end of June for an intense week of training and rehearsal with veteran performers, culminating in a final performance on June 30 at the storied Minskoff Theater on Broadway. One boy and one girl will be named winners of national Jimmy Awards, named for Broadway legend James Nederlander.
Overture’s nominees have done well at the Jimmy Awards in recent years. Sophia Tzougros of Kettle Moraine High School of the Arts and Martha Hellerman of Shorewood High School were both named finalists, one of the top three female performers in the country, in 2014 and 2013, respectively.
“It was a strong field of talented young performers, the largest audition group we’ve ever had,” said Overture Center vice president of programming Tim Sauers, who oversees the Tommy Awards program. “We gave out 66 Outstanding Lead Performance awards. The level of talent in our region is so impressive. All of the lead performance recipients are strong performers. Emily and Rayven in particular had exceptionally strong technique, but even more important, they have unique voices and personalities. They will fit right in with the top performers from across the country. ”
Matt was honored with an Outstanding Lead Performance award for her role as Princess Fiona in Shrek the Musical. Burdette was honored for his portrayal of Gomez Addams in The Addams Family. Both earned Outstanding Supporting Performance awards last year.
“When I got the call that I’d made it, my first thought was, ‘Wow, I have big shoes to fill,’” said Matt, who will study musical theater at The Boston Conservatory in the fall. “I probably didn’t sound excited enough, because it just wasn’t processing. It still isn’t processing, I don’t think. I’ve made real lifelong friends through the Tommy Awards. I’m really excited to make more in New York.”
“I was the very last audition, so I was just watching all these other performers just killing it, and I got more and more nervous,” said Burdette, who plans to study musical theater in college. “When I got the callback, I just said to myself, ‘I have to do this.’ I got over the nervousness and did my best. I’m looking forward to meeting Broadway producers and getting to know other kids from around the country. I think I’ll grow and learn as a performer, and learn what it’ll really take to make it on Broadway.”
Overture’s Tommy Awards program included sixty schools in 2014/15, its sixth year. A panel of theater professionals, educators and others attended shows, offered feedback to the performers, and nominated award recipients.
Overture’s Tommy Awards are one of 28 regional awards programs represented at the NHSMTA. Those programs included a total of about 50,000 teens.
Overture’s Tommy Awards are named in honor of local musical theater hero Tom Wopat, critically acclaimed and Tony Award-nominated singer and actor. Born in Lodi, Wisconsin, Wopat first started singing and dancing in high school musicals, and studied music at the University of Wisconsin-Madison before getting his “big break” in 1978 as Luke Duke in the immensely popular Dukes of Hazzard television show. He even directed several episodes during the show’s six-year run.
The Tommy Awards are funded in part by Alliant Energy Foundation, American Girl’s Fund for Children, American Family Insurance, CUNA Mutual Group, the Wisconsin Arts Board, The A. Paul Jones Charitable Trust, the John A. Johnson Foundation, a component fund of the Madison Community Foundation, and contributions to Overture Center for the Arts. Additional support by Wisconsin Public Radio.
Founded in 2009, NHSMTA’s mission is to raise the profile of musical theater in schools, recognize dedicated teachers and inspire the next generation of performers and enthusiasts. The program has been the catalyst for more than $760,000 in educational scholarships made available to deserving students. NHSMTA is produced by the Broadway Education Alliance and Pittsburgh CLO and is supported by many leading theater industry organizations including The Broadway League, BWF (Weissler) Foundation, Disney Theatrical Productions, Jujamcyn Theatres, Music Theatre International, the Nederlander Organization, NYU Tisch School of the Arts, Rodgers & Hammerstein Organization, Samuel French Library, Shubert Organization, Tams-Witmark Music Library, Inc., Ticketmaster and others. The “Jimmy Award” is named for legendary Broadway producer/theater owner James M. Nederlander. To learn more about the National High School Musical Theatre Awards and/or to make a donation to the program, please visit NHSMTA.com.
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