NEW YORK (AP) — One brought leading man grace. One brought a little raunch. Together they left New York with the top National High School Musical Theater Awards.
Sarah Lynn Marion, from Fullerton, Calif., was named best actress and Taylor Varga from Newtown, Conn., won the best actor crown at the fifth annual "Glee"-like competition for musical teenagers, nicknamed the Jimmy Awards after theater owner James Nederlander.
Both top winners receive a $10,000 scholarship award, capping a months-long winnowing process that began with 50,000 students from 1,000 schools and ended at the Minskoff Theatre, the long-term home of "The Lion King." This year's contestants came from 20 states.
Marion, a senior at Huntington Beach High School for the Performing Arts, had sung a segment from "Hello, Dolly" earlier in the night and then absolutely nailed the "110 in the Shade" song "Raunchy," a sexy, needy tune with the appropriate lyric, "Gonna make them other gals turn green."
In her acceptance speech, she thanked her teachers, her parents, her four siblings, her friends and all fellow contestants. "And my first grade teacher who gave me my first role as Jack's mother in 'Jack and the Beanstalk,'" she said. In the past few years, she's also had roles in school productions of "Thoroughly Modern Millie," ''Damn Yankees" and "Xanadu."
Varga, who attends Newtown High School, was one of two J. Pierrepont Finches from "How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying" and delivered a touching "Santa Fe" from "Newsies" for his solo. "I'm a little lost for words," he said, before thanking his family and friends who made the trip from Connecticut.
The 62 teens who made it to New York — 31 girls and 31 boys — got a five-day theatrical boot camp at New York University's Tisch School of the Arts, complete with scrambling to learn an opening and closing group number, intense advice on their solo songs, plus a field trip to watch "Annie" on Broadway and dinner at famed theater-district hangout Sardi's.
All 62 performed snippets of the songs that they had sung at regional competitions as part of seven large medleys and then seven finalists — three boys and four girls — were asked to sing solos. The final winners were picked from the last seven.