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Arts and Entertainment

Blumey Award nominees are the best of high school theater class
Stage prizes put winners on path to prominence
Published Wednesday, May 5, 2021 12:20 pm
by Ashley Mahoney

Keyon Pickett of Northwest School of the Arts is a finalist for Best Male Actor at the annual Blumey Awards, which honor the best high school theater performances in the Charlotte region.

The show goes on for the Blumey Awards.

The annual High School Musical Theater Awards, also known as the Blumeys, will present a 30-minute celebration show on PBS Charlotte on May 25 at 8 p.m. It will feature the Best Actor and Best Actress nominees from participating schools, two medley performances from 12 finalists and name the Best Actor and Best Actress.

The winners will advance to the National High School Musical Theater Awards, also known as the Jimmys on July 15 in New York City. It’s the Tony Awards of high school theater.

“It is essential to keep theater alive in our schools and to give students the chance to express themselves, connect, and excel through the performing arts,” Blumenthal Vice President of Education Andrea Maloney said in a statement. “The Charlotte region is packed full of exceptionally talented young artists and this year’s Blumey Awards program proved that remains true even during a year deeply impacted by a pandemic.”

Sixty-six students from 34 schools were nominated for Best Actor and Best Actress. They participated in a two-day audition workshop intensive called the Blumey Awards Bootcamp, culminating in a second round of auditions before a panel of judges. This approach allowed for appropriate physical distancing and adhering to capacity requirements.

“Typically what I am always looking for is vocal technique in the students,” said Charlotte native and Broadway actress TyNia Brandon, who served as a Blumey Awards judge. “I am a singer myself, so I have always been a stickler about vocal technique and really making sure that students are learning how to use their voices properly and being able to sustain their voices as well, but we also judged them on their movement quality, their use of the stage [and] how well they have prepared the material, which all goes into their characterization. It was so much fun to watch each of them work through their processes.

“It is a hard thing to do when you are in high school, getting up on stage and presenting to people, but they all did such a great job.”

The finalists for Best Actress are Katherine Beason of Providence Day School, Kate McCracken of Charlotte Latin School, Sophie Miller of Northwest School of the Arts, Kathleen Moore of Davidson Day School, Molly Neal of South Pointe High School and Rachel Ochoa of East Lincoln High School.

Best Actor finalists are Bryson Battle of Hickory Ridge High School, Lance Lokas of Covenant Day School, Cameron Meyer of Northwest Cabarrus High School, Keyon Pickett Jr. of Northwest School of the Arts, Jackson Randall of Central Academy of Technology and Arts and Daniel Turner of Mooresville High School.

Battle will attend Boston Conservatory at Berklee, with Broadway as his ultimate goal. He performed “Heaven on Their Minds” from “Jesus Christ Superstar” and “Out There” from “The Hunchback of Notre Dame.” His dream roles are Quasimodo in “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” and Elphaba in “Wicked.”

The latter sparked Battle’s love for musical theater, which he saw as an eighth grader. As he sat in the theater listening to “Defying Gravity,” he knew he wanted to perform on stage. Immersing himself in all things theater was the next step.

“I learned shows upon shows upon shows, songs upon characters upon actors and actresses, just familiarizing myself and having to educate myself, because those things weren’t afforded to me,” Battle said. “Some others are introduced to theater in elementary school and middle school. I told myself, ‘if this is what you want to do, you are going to have to work a lot harder, because a lot of people have been introduced to it at a younger age.”

Battle’s first lead role was Audrey II in “Little Shop of Horrors.” He considers it a big moment, because it was the first time he had a character name in a show. Theater participation trends female at Hickory Ridge High, so not having the traditional Blumeys experience may have been a blessing in disguise for Battle. It allowed him to showcase his talents in a way that a traditional performance may not have allowed.

“I always knew I really wanted to do the Blumeys, because you grow up and you hear, ‘Rene Rapp [an NWSA alumna] did the Blumeys and she is on Broadway now, or Eva Noblezada [another alumna], she did the Blumeys and she [earned a Tony nomination],’” Battle said. “You are just like, ‘wow, these people are actually making moves toward their career.”

Pickett, who will attend the University of Michigan, also has his sights set on Broadway. He enrolled at NWSA in sixth grade with an initial concentration in acting, but as a seventh grader in “Legally Blonde the Musical Jr.” he knew he wanted to pursue musical theater.

“Before I could even speak or write or do anything cogitatively advanced, I would sing and dance,” Pickett said. “My mom always told me she knew I was going to perform some way or another, whether that would be my career or as a hobby. The minute I decided I wanted to pursue acting she was like, ‘OK, acting classes, NWSA. Let’s see how we can get you into what you truly want to do.’”

Pickett performed “Extraordinary” from “Pippin” and “Dreamer in Disguise” from “Carrie” for his Blumey audition. His senior and junior years have been anything but conventional, but he considers them a lesson in patience.

“This year has been very different, because instead of performing with an ensemble in a show, I am top six Best Actor, which is insane beyond belief,” Pickett said. “The Blumeys have kind of showed me the power of hard work, dedication and patience. This is the first major award I have ever been nominated for, and I know I am only 17. As someone who has been performing for a decade, now to be here and getting recognized for the hard work I have been putting in for so many years, the Blumeys have really felt like a portrayal of how hard work and dedication can get you where you want to be.”


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