When Stephanie Ainsworth and Joey Myers accepted their 2017 Blue Star Awards on the Starlight Theatre stage May 25, they also began a journey that would find them in New York City performing on a Broadway stage just weeks later.
Stephanie and Joey took home honors for Outstanding Actress in a Lead Role and Outstanding Actor in a Lead Role, respectively, in Starlight’s 15th annual Blue Star Awards competition. Stephanie, now an alumnus of Blue Valley High School, accepted a Blue Star Award for her role as Rose Alvarez in Bye Bye Birdie, and Joey, who will be a senior at Central High School in St. Joseph, accepted an award for his role as Edward Bloom in Big Fish.
“I was really surprised when I won,” Stephanie said. “It felt like at that moment all my hard work over the last four years was finally recognized.”
Joey was equally thrilled with the honor. “The most rewarding part of playing Edward Bloom and winning the Blue Star Award was that I was able to represent my school,” he said. “I am not the first to be nominated, but I am the first from my school to win, so it was exciting to shed light on the theatre program at a school that isn’t necessarily recognized for it.”
Winning the Blue Star Awards also meant Stephanie and Joey were eligible to represent Starlight and Kansas City at the ninth annual National High School Musical Theatre Awards/Jimmy Awards in New York City. The two left for the Big Apple on June 19 accompanied by Starlight education director Amy Reinert-Price.
More than 50,000 student performers from 1,300 high schools participating in regional high school musical theatre awards program in 2016-17 competed for the coveted NHSMTA qualifying spots. Stephanie and Joey joined 72 other very talented teens from across the nation.
“I was most excited to meet other students,” Joey said. “They are in the same boat that I am and at a similar talent level.” All 74 students participated in an eight-day musical theatre intensive that included auditions, rehearsals, private coaching by Broadway stars, meet and greets with guest presenters and more.
The program’s grand finale, the Jimmy Awards Ceremony, took place June 26 and was hosted by Ben Platt, who recently won the 2017 Tony® Award for Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Musical for his starring role in Broadway’s Dear Evan Hansen. Director, choreographer and producer Kenny Ortega also made a special appearance at the event and presented the “week in review” video.
The Jimmy Awards ceremony featured an opening group number and a variety of showcase medleys. All of the teens, in full costume, came together for the opening performance that began with the teen angst of Dear Evan Hansen and ended with stomping out the Celtic beats of Come From Away.
Now back home, Stephanie and Joey are looking toward their futures. Stephanie plans to relax this summer, dance for her studio and work on some skills before attending Elon University in the fall. Joey plans to work hard during his senior year in hopes of snagging another Blue Star Award next May! jimm