The fifth annual National High School Musical Theater Awards was held on Monday, July 1, at the Minskoff Theatre on Broadway.
Newtown High School Class of 2013 graduate Taylor Varga, winner of the Connecticut High School Musical Theater Awards, performed in the national competition in front of a sold-out house and won Best Performance by An Actor. His winning performance of “Santa Fe,” from the musical Newsies, “brought down the house with thunderous applause,” Sabrina Post, Taylor’s vocal coach of more than six years, said the following morning.
Taylor represented the Connecticut High School Musical Theater Awards in Norwich. Best Performance by An Actress was won by Sarah Lynn Marion, representing the John Raitt Awards for Youth (JRAY) in Fullerton, Calif.
Each student received $10,000 from the Nederlander Organization to further their education. Each is also eligible for four-year merit- and need-based scholarship assistance to attend the New Studio on Broadway, NYU Tisch School of the Arts Department of Drama, contingent upon acceptance into the program.
Activities commenced on Wednesday, June 26, with rehearsals, master classes, private coaching and interviews with theater professionals leading up to the live awards show on Monday, where the Jimmy Awards for Best Performance by an Actor and Best Performance by an Actress were presented.
The ceremony was hosted by Laura Osnes and Santino Fontana, Tony Award-nominated stars of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Cinderella. The awards presentation featured student performances by all 62 participants and solos by select finalists.
The Jimmy Award, named in honor of James M. Nederlander — the legendary Broadway theater owner and producer — was presented following five days of rehearsals and private coaching with faculty at the New Studio on Broadway, NYU Tisch School of the Arts Department of Drama.
Students also enjoyed discussions with Tony-nominated composer Benj Pasek, Kirstin Tucker (assistant dance captain, Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Cinderella), and theater artist Charles Busch. The students also took in a performance of Annie and enjoyed a talkback with the cast.
Taylor is no stranger to the stage. Not only has he performed on the Newtown High School stage, having lead roles in Sweeney Todd and How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, he has been performing with Sabrina’s Encore Productions since the fifth grade, having both principal and ensemble roles in musicals such as Oliver!, Seussical, You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown, Les Miserables, and Blood Brothers, to name a few. He will be performing his final role with Sabrina’s Encore Productions this summer, as Donkey in Shrek at The Palace Theater in Waterbury at the end of July.