When 2016 Blue Star Award winners Alison Ann Gillespie and Lucas Lowry accepted their trophies on the Starlight Theatre stage May 19, they were just beginning an adventure that would find them in New York City performing on a Broadway stage less than six weeks later.
Alison Ann and Lucas took home the honors of Outstanding Actress in a Lead Role and Outstanding Actor in a Lead Role, respectively, in Starlight’s 14th annual Blue Star Awards competition. Alison Ann was awarded for her role as Mabel in The Pirates of Penzance at Raymore-Peculiar High School, while Lucas was honored for his portrayal of Chad in Shawnee Mission West High School’s production of All Shook Up.
Those wins qualified Alison Ann and Lucas to represent Starlight and Kansas City at the eighth annual National High School Musical Theatre Awards/Jimmy Awards in New York. After leaving Kansas City with a Starlight chaperone on June 19, they soon found themselves participating in the NHSMTA program sponsored by The Broadway League.
Alison Ann and Lucas were joined by 60 other talented teens representing 30 other theatre award programs from across the nation. Together they participated in a nine-day musical theatre intensive that included auditions, rehearsals, private coaching by Broadway stars, guest presenters, sightseeing and even enjoying a performance of On Your Feet! with a cast talk-back afterward.
“The most exciting and beneficial part of the whole experience was to get to be with 61 other kids who feel the same way I do about performance art,” Alison said. “These kids are the best in the nation, and their passion surpasses any I’ve seen. I was able to relate to people who are passionate, humble, kind and highly driven.”
A message from guest presenter Ryan Scott Oliver, a composer and lyricist, particularly resonated with Alison Ann. “He said, ‘Don’t wait for permission to start learning. You don’t need a teacher or coach to tell you it’s time to start reading about a show or learning a technique.’ Now I feel liberated to go and start my own explorations!”
Lucas said he didn’t view the NHSMTA experience so much as a competition “but more as a group of young actors and actresses, who I now call ‘family,’ living our dreams!”
The program culminated in a Broadway-focused talent showcase on June 27 at the Minskoff Theatre on Broadway (home of The Lion King). The showcase featured performances by all 62 nominees and solos by select finalists. Winners were chosen by a panel of judges that included Tony Award®-winning producers, award-winning casting experts and industry professionals.
Lucas was one of 20 students singled out for awards. He received a $2,500 Special Recognition Scholarship presented by Tams-Witmark Music Library, Inc. Of the honor, he said, “I was truly astonished. Receiving the scholarship seemed like an awakening for me in terms of what I wanted to pursue as an actor.”
With real-world experience on a Broadway stage now under their belts, Alison Ann and Lucas will soon begin their next adventure – college!
Alison Ann is headed to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and intends to be a music major in voice and opera. Long-term, she hopes to establish a career as an opera singer in Europe.
Lucas will apply his NHSMTA scholarship money to his education at Wichita State University where he plans to major in music education with a minor in musical theatre. After that? “I hope one day to reunite with my Jimmy Awards family and be the next generation of Broadway!”
Click here to learn more about the National High School Musical Theatre Awards.
Click here to learn more about Starlight’s Blue Star Awards and to view a listing of 2015-16 Blue Star Award winners and nominees.