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Arts and Entertainment

Blumey Award win a major career achievement for Bryson Battle
Hickory Ridge High senior earns Best Actor prize
 
Published Saturday, June 5, 2021
by Ashley Mahoney

PHOTO | DANIEL COSTON
Hickory Ridge High School senior Bryson Battle earned the Best Actor award at the annual High School Musical Theater Awards in Charlotte. The win earned Battle a berth in the national Jimmy Awards in New York City.

The stage is set for Bryson Battle.


The Hickory Ridge High School senior won Best Actor in this year’s High School Musical Theater Awards, also known as the Blumey Awards. Kate McCracken of Charlotte Latin School won Best Actress.


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


Broadway is Battle’s goal after attending Boston Conservatory at Berklee. He dreams of playing Quasimodo in “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” and Elphaba in “Wicked.” For Battle, winning the Blumey marked another next step in a journey he began as an eighth grader.


“Wicked” was the first musical Battle attended in person and it ignited his passion for theater. As he listened to Elphaba sing “Defying Gravity,” something changed within him. He knew he wanted to perform on stage and made it his mission to immerse himself in musical theater.


“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.”


Audrey II in “Little Shop of Horrors” holds a special place in Battle’s heart, as the first time he had a character name in a show.


More female than male students tend to participate in theater at Hickory Ridge High, which meant a traditionally staged show would not have necessarily included a highlighted role for him. However, the pandemic forced theater programs and Blumenthal Performing Arts to pivot in their approach to the Blumeys. It allowed him to shine.

“The teens were starving to take the stage, to share themselves through their passion for performance,” Blumenthal Vice President of Education Andrea Maloney said in a statement. “It is clear that the arts not only remained alive but thrived during the pandemic; the slow down became an incubator for creativity and the future of theatre, of Broadway, lives right here in Charlotte.”

In lieu of the traditional awards event at Belk Theater, a 30-minute celebration ceremony was pre-recorded at the theater and debuted on PBS Charlotte on May 25, after which the winners were announced. Competitors included six Best Actor and Best Actress finalists, who participated in two medley numbers. The show included a combination of virtual and in-person performances from the nominees. Thirty-four schools and 330 students were represented in the Blumey Awards process. Two nominees from each school participated in a two-day workshop intensive with theater professionals in April. Nominees auditioned a second time to determine the Best Actor and Best Actress winners.

Linda Booth, a Charlottean, and Tyler McKenzie, a Central Academy of Technology and Arts alumnus and former ensemble member of the National Tour of “Hamilton,” choreographed the virtual and in-person performances.

Winning at the Blumeys means securing a place at the Jimmy Awards, formally known as the National High School Musical Theater Awards, for Battle and McCracken. The Jimmys will be virtually presented on July 15.

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