Meet this year’s Blumey Critics

Write in specifics.

Be able to recognize something good, whether you personally like it or not.

Did the performers hit their target, and was it worth hitting? And did they create a world that was consistent and believable?

A dozen high school students earned the right to take a shot at doing this as they become theater critics in the next few months. They’ll attend area high school musicals – the 39 participating in the annual Blumey Awards – and write reviews for the arts section of the Observer’s website.

Twenty-three students applied for the Observer’s second year of featuring student critics, said Michelle Youngs, the Blumenthal’s education programs manager. “They’re a little more excited than last year, I think, because they saw students doing it last year.”

Observer journalists will award one writer The Charlotte Observer Critic Award at the Blumeys, which are Charlotte’s version of the Tony Awards for high school students.

To win the honor of assessing peers who’ll be performing, they had to send the Blumenthal Performing Arts Center a writing sample, why they wanted to be a critic and a teacher recommendation. (The teen reviewers aren’t the judges for the Blumeys; theater experts will do that.)

And to kick off the whole experience, they got a lesson in responsible criticism from the Observer’s theater critic, Lawrence Toppman. They were enthusiastic to talk with him, asked a lot of questions and said they gained a new perspective.

Meet the critics:

Sean Breitkreutz, 18

Northwestern High

Is a filmmaker and screenwriter. Toppman’s discussion “changed my perspective on how to write and film movies.” Said sitting in the audience will also be a helpful, new experience.

Favorite production: “Pulp Fiction.”

Colton Carmichael, 18

Weddington High

Loves Roger Ebert and said Toppman’s talk changed his view of critiques. Said this is a chance “about analyzing what’s effective about a show” and presenting objectively. Dream job: Movie critic.

Favorite production: “Rosencrantz and Gildenstern Are Dead.”

Hannah Epstein, 17

Highland School of Technology

Enjoys fiction writing, including novels, and theater at school. She’s excited about a different kind of writing. “I’m just looking forward to watching the shows.”

Favorite production: “Wicked.”

Gray Heath, 16

Gaston Day

Loves fashion and the costume aspect of theater. “I think theater and movies are such an awesome creative escape.” She’s also editor of the school newspaper.

Favorite production: “Les Miserables.”

Katie Iacovelli, 17

Jay M. Robinson High

Mostly acts, has some experience directing and working the box office. “I also love writing.” She’s excited about the newness of it all: the Blumeys, and different schools and productions.

Favorite production: “Wicked.”

Elizabeth Kingaby, 16

Central Cabarrus High

Has done acting and tech work; is president of speech and debate club. Looks forward to being part of a “ripple effect” in theater. “I’m excited to reach more people.”

Favorite production: “Sweeney Todd.”

Brielle Kronstedt, 17

Carmel Christian

Plays tennis, basketball and runs. Loves creative writing, dancing and said she’ll critique responsibly because she admires theater. “They put their hearts on the stage.”

Favorite production: “The Glass Menagerie.”

Madison Lorello, 17

Parkwood High

Has done tech work, acting and is doing makeup for “Charlie Brown” this spring. Looks forward to visiting schools, and vice versa. “We’re excited to see people coming to our theater and see what talent we have to offer.”

Favorite production: “Book of Mormon.”

Nathan Overton, 17

Highland School of Technology

Went to Governor’s School for theater this summer and likes acting, writing and blogging. “It’s a good way to express yourself.” He’s interested in what it will be like to sit in the audience.

Favorite production: “Billy Elliott.”

Mary Alex Staude, 17

Weddington High

Works behind the scenes as production stage manager at school. Confesses to shower-singing. “I’m definitely excited to look at theater from a different angle.”

Favorite production: “Les Miserables.”

Shannon Sullivan, 17

Hickory Ridge High

Has been a director, stage manager and actor at school. She’s written a play, too. “When I see a show, I’m already thinking of things I would write ... and now I get the chance.”

Favorite production: “Next to Normal.”

Grace Wallace, 17

Central Academy of Technology and Arts

Loves theater and is excited to visit schools and write critiques: “I’m a huge Rotten Tomatoes fan – it was the first app on my phone.” Is also a swimmer, plays soccer and rides horses.

Favorite production: “Chess.”