Recent John Burroughs High School graduate Josh Strobl won Best Performance by an Actor at the National High School Musical Theatre Awards (NHSMTA) Monday evening, June 27, in New York City. He received a $10,000 scholarship and was offered a full scholarship to NYU/Tisch School of the Arts.
Strobl gave an impassioned performance of “Maria” from West Side Story in the finals, going last in the group of eight male finalists. He had prepared the song in advance of the competition, working with Kenny Ortega, a Los Angeles movie producer and choreographer for Michael Jackson.
“It felt incredible,” he said about the performance on the Minskoff Theatre stage. “It was because of the audience propelling me forward and from the other 61 nominees support, I was able to give one of the best performances ever.”
Since June 19, Strobl and the other nominees – 31 male and 31 female in all – spent long days of rehearsals with Broadway professionals and auditions in front of the judging panel.
First the competitors learned an eight-minute opening number, including choreographed dancing and singing. Then they were separated into two groups – medley and production.
Strobl credits his coach during the NHSMTA competition, Eden Espinosa, who performed as Elphaba in Broadway’s Wicked, with helping him prepare for the finals.
“She taught me really valuable things about performance and how to be a real person on the stage,” he said, “Which I was then took to the finals.”
Winners were selected by a panel of judges comprised of notable theater professionals including Tony Award-winning producers, award-winning casting experts and industry professionals such as Kent Gash, Rachel Hoffman, Alecia Parker, Tara Rubin, Nick Scandalios and Kate Shindle.
Additional judges who selected the groups in which the students performed were Paul Canaan, Wayne Cilento, Kent Gash, Stephanie Klapper and Cesar Rocha.
Amina Faye won Best Performance by an Actress. A number of other competitors in the 2016 finals won recognition and scholarships as well.
Strobl won Best Actor in the regional Jerry Herman Awards, held at the Pantages Theatre in Hollywood, in May 2016. He was nominated for his role of Link Larkin in the Burroughs 2016 production of Hairspray by Southern California judges.
His win at the Jerry Herman Awards in May qualified him to travel to New York City and compete in the National High School Musical Theatre Awards.
Held on the stage of the Minskoff Theatre, current home of The Lion King, the NHSMTA was hosted by Zachary Levi, who currently stars on Broadway in Roundabout Theatre Company’s She Loves Me at Studio 54.
NHSTMA’s prestigious annual competition is also known as The Jimmy™ Award; it’s named in honor of James M. Nederlander, Chairman of Nederlander Producing Company of America.
The annual Broadway-focused talent showcase featured performances by all 62 nominees and solos by select finalists. Their debut on a Broadway stage followed 9 days of rehearsals and private coaching with faculty at the New Studio on Broadway, NYU Tisch School of the Arts Department of Drama and other professionals. Students also enjoyed a performance of On Your Feet! including a talkback with the cast.
The 2016 National High School Musical Theatre Awards introduced a new format for the program in order to accommodate more regional awards programs and provide opportunities for more students to experience Broadway and New York City. This year there were 62 students representing 31 programs, compared to last year’s 52 students representing 26 programs.
Strobl not only played the lead role of Link Larkin in JBHS Drama’s production of Hairspray this past year as a senior, but he also was a soloist and president of the award-winning Powerhouse, the top mixed show choir of JBHS’ Vocal Music Association.
Although Strobl did win a full scholarship to NYU/Tisch, he will attend his first choice school, University of Michigan, and begin studies towards a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Musical Theater in the fall.