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The Voice of the Black Community

Arts and Entertainment

Blumey Awards a stepping stone and beyond for high school theater
Program alumni often move on to bigger stages
 
Published Monday, May 21, 2018 5:03 pm
by Ashley Mahoney

PHOTO | ASHLEY MAHONEY
Anna Hertel and Justin Rivers, who earned 2017 Blumey Awards for Best Actress and Best Actor, respectively, announce the 2018 winners May 20 at Blumenthal Performing Arts.

The Charlotte region is a hotbed for high school performing arts.

Blumenthal Performing Arts seventh annual Blumey Awards highlighted the area’s best and brightest on May 20. Adrey Kell’s “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” won Best Musical in Tier 2, Ethan Holtzman of Charlotte Latin won Best Actor for his performance as the Baker in “Into the Woods” and Renee Rapp won Best Actress for her performance as Sandra in Northwest School of the Arts production of “Big Fish.” Nation Ford High won the Best Musical in Tier 1 with “Seussical.”

The Blumeys reflect a manifestation of not only what can be for high school students who go on to the Jimmy Awards in New York on June 25, but also what programs in their home state have to offer. Students gain exposure to scholarship opportunities, as well as the Broadway Dreams Musical Theatre Intensive July 28-Aug. 4 at Blumenthal Performing Arts Center.

A key component in component in the process comes from unyielding directors, such as 2015 Theatre Education Tony Award winner and NWSA instructor Corey Mitchell. Beyond working with his own students, Mitchell also directed 2016 and 2017 Blumeys Best Actor Justin Rivers (Central Academy of Technology and Arts). They worked together on the Central Piedmont Community College Summer Theatre production of “Sister Act” in 2016, in which Rivers played TJ.

“He was about to go into his senior year in high school,” Mitchell said. “It really has been phenomenal to see the growth that he has had just in these past two years. I know he is back again with CP Summer Theater again.”

Rivers and CATA costar Amina Faye (Best Actress) led their school to a trifecta of Blumeys in 2016 when their production of “Ragtime” took home Best Musical in Tier 2.

“I grew up 45 minutes outside of Charlotte, and I come from a family where we literally had nothing,” Rivers said. “We still don’t have what a lot of people have, but it’s where I grew up, so it’s all I know.”

Gaining experience in middle school sparked a fire for Rivers, who just finished his freshman year at Point Park University Conservatory of Performing Arts in Pittsburgh.

“I didn’t know that this could be a career,” he said. “I’ve been singing ever since I could talk. My grandma taught me how to sing, and all I know how to do is perform.”

In addition to presenting the award for Best Actor at the 2018 Blumeys, Rivers will take the stage with CPCC Summer Theatre this season in “Oklahoma!” “Grease” and “Newsies.”

While Rivers is the first performer to win consecutive best actor Blumeys, he marks an example of theatrical excellence in the region.

“It happens all the time,” Mitchell said. “It’s not just Justin. Kids who I’ve taught like Mekai [Lee].”
An NWSA alumnus, Lee won Best Actor in 2014, before going on to attend the University of North Carolina School of the Arts. He returns to Charlotte July 10-15 with the national tour of “The Color Purple.”

“Literally two days after he graduated college, he’s out on the road with ‘The Color Purple,’” Mitchell said. “I love that I am a step in the right direction and not just the penultimate of what their experiences are. That’s a fantastic feeling.”

 

Comments

You guys failed to mention there were TWO Best Musical winners Sunday night. Nation Ford High School, located in Fort Mill, South Carolina, won Best Musical for schools in Tier I ($10,000 or less). Just thought I'd do a small correction there, as BOTH schools were very deserving of the honor.
Posted on May 22, 2018
 
Why don't you post these shows which would enhance broadway awareness,immensely?
Posted on May 22, 2018
 

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