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Arts and Entertainment

Blumey winnerís most excellent year
Sayo Oni earns Best Actor prize
Published Wednesday, May 22, 2019 11:18 am
by Ashley Mahoney | The Charlotte Post

Sayo Oni, a senior at Central Academy of Technology and Arts, center, won Best Actor as Drew in “Rock of Ages” at the 2019 Blumey Awards.

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Sayo Oni did not expect his senior year to turn out like this. It is not even over yet.

The Central Academy of Technology and Arts student won Best Actor for his role as Drew in “Rock of Ages” at the eighth annual Blumenthal Performing Arts high School Musical Theater Awards, also known as the Blumeys on May 19. He and Best Actress Arella Flur of Charlotte Latin School—who played Mary Poppins in “Mary Poppins” – will compete at The Jimmy Awards (National High School Musical Theater Awards) on June 24 in New York City. They depart on June 13 for an all-expense-paid trip to train the week leading up to the show.

“It was magical,” Oni said. “I didn’t expect it in the slightest. I saw every single one of those guys on the stage getting that award before I would. Just being on stage with such talented individuals, it’s kind of nerve-wracking.”

Said Blumenthal President Tom Gabbard in a statement: “We’re so proud of all the students, faculty and staff from the 48 schools who participated in the 2019 Blumey Awards. Mounting a musical is one of the most collaborative activities imaginable combining the talents of performers, tech crews, marketers and others.”

Everyone has a once upon a time moment, and for Oni it happened in eighth grade.

“I was in a kids show,” he said. “We took this short 30-minute play to a bunch of elementary schools to perform for them. I was in a show, I forget what it was called, but it was about these three billy goats and I played the older brother. As goofy as it sounds, that was really the spark that got me into acting. While I’d done dancing in elementary school and leading up to high school, I had never acted on stage. That was what drove my passion in the right direction.”

Oni will attend Elon University in the fall, where he intends to study musical theater with a minor in marketing.

“I would love to be on Broadway,” Oni said. “I would love to be in a touring cast for a show. I would love to do anything that huge. That’s my ideal lifestyle. That’s what I want to spend the rest of my life doing.”

Blumey participants have been successful across the globe, from Broadway to London’s West End to returning to Belk Theater with national tours. Eva Noblezada, who won Best Actress at the 2013 Blumeys, has since been nominated for two Tony Awards: 2017 for the lead in “Miss Saigon” and 2019 for the lead in “Hadestown.” CATA has produced several Blumey winners and nominees who’ve gone on to professional success. Justin Rivers won Best Actor in 2017; Amina Faye earned Best Actress at the Jimmy Awards in 2016. Nkeki Obi-Melekwe currently plays Tina Turner in “Tina” in London. Tyler McKenzie, who performed in Charlotte last November with “Hamilton,” was an award presenter last week.

“I called Amina up yesterday and she congratulated me, and gave me a few pointers,” Oni said. “She told me, ‘don’t stress too much about it.’ I’ve tried to get in contact with Justin Rivers. He has not gotten back yet, but he told me before the awards to let him know how everything goes. I’m sure he’ll be getting back to me soon.”

Oni will graduate on June 7 having experienced a year unlike anything he imagined.

“I couldn’t have predicted at the beginning of my senior year that I would have an actual Blumey in my bedroom,” Oni said. “That’s crazy.”


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