The only thing missing was a red carpet.
The Belk Theater was brimming with evening gowns and tuxes Sunday night, and performers received their awards onstage with aplomb and a grateful speech. There were rousing musical numbers, too.
It was all part of the second annual Blumenthal Performing Arts High School Musical Theater Awards (aka the Blumeys), which is the Charlotte area’s high school version of the Tony Awards.
The top winners: Charlotte Christian School won the Best Musical Award for “Oklahoma!” Charlotte Latin’s Areon Mobasher won Best Actor for his portrayal of Jean Valjean in “Les Misérables” (the school edition). Eva Noblezada, a junior at Northwest School of the Arts, won Best Actress for her portrayal of Ariel in “Footloose.”
“It’s my favorite event my school participates in,” said Lori Anne Sword, Charlotte Christian’s “Oklahoma!” musical director. “It’s like the state championship of a high school football game. It’s a huge deal.”
Linda Booth, a professional choreographer who choreographed “Oklahoma!,” Latin’s “Les Misérables,” and the Blumeys, said she sees the value in theater in education because it teaches students important life skills, such as working as a team and problem-solving. Booth also said the experience of theater – especially the chance to perform on a professional stage – is transformative for young people.
“I tell principals all the time, when you watch (theater), it can affect you, but when you do it, it changes who you are,” she said.
Four judges who saw and evaluated high school performances initially named 84 nominees for the awards. Seventeen high schools in the Charlotte region – from Cabarrus, Gaston, Mecklenburg and Union counties – were nominated for at least one of the 14 categories.
A week in New York
During rehearsals Sunday afternoon, Noblezada said she loved her experience with the Blumey Awards.
“It’s just a surreal feeling that I get to be part of such a professional experience as this,” she said.
Playing Jean Valjean was Mobasher’s first foray into theater.
“It’s honestly been the best experience of my life,” he said Sunday afternoon. “I was really worried. I was expecting all of the nominees to be kids who have been doing theater their entire lives, but that … was completely struck down like a bolt of lightning.”
While he was talking outside the theater where others rehearsed, many students stopped to compliment him.
“Your song made me cry!” one girl said, clutching her face.
He and Noblezada will receive an all-expenses paid trip for a week in New York City, where they’ll train and compete with other regional winners from around the country. The national show and ceremony, called the Jimmy Awards, takes place July 1.
‘A cool thing’
Like the Tonys, the Blumeys involve big production numbers, medleys and numbers from nominated musicals.
Wells Fargo sponsored the black-tie event, and Maureen O’Boyle, a news anchor for WBTV, emceed. Local media personalities, community leaders and performing arts professionals presented the awards.
“I’m so honored to be here on a stage that professional actors have performed on, it’s the coolest thing ever,” said Evan Bertram, who won Best Featured Performer for her portrayal of Madame de la Grande Bouche in Covenant Day School’s “Beauty and the Beast.”
Mary Lynn Bain, who was nominated for Best Actress for playing Princess Winnifred in Myers Park’s “Once Upon a Mattress,” said she was glad to have been a part of the Blumey Awards.
“It’s a cool thing to do,” she said. “We get to have fun onstage in costumes. It doesn’t get much better than that.”
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