Erica Durham of Central Valley, the “Best Actress” award winner of the 2012 Geneva College Henry Mancini Musical Theatre Awards, garnered further recognition as a runner-up in another prestigious competition—The National High School Musical Theater Awards (NHSMTA), held in New York city. Durham’s prize, which makes her one of just four runners-up among the 60 high school performers in the nationwide competition, was $2,500.
Durham and Hopewell High School student Ryan Vander Wagen were the two Mancini winners to attend the week-long all-expenses-paid trip, which opened doors and established contacts for both.
The NHSMTA, unofficially called the “Jimmy” Awards after the owner of the Minskoff Theatre at which the June 25 contest took place, is a six-day program designed for 60 high school students, trimmed from a base of 50,000 competitors from 1,000 schools. The 30 girls and 30 boys received six days of coaching and rehearsals at New York University.
Durham’s favorite part of the week was the mock audition round on Sunday, the day before the competition. In it, the students were able to see each other perform in costume, though with less of the tension brought on by the actual event.
Another fun activity during the week was a showing of Nice Work If You Can Get It, with Matthew Broderick and Kelli O'Hara. The NHSMTA competitors were able to speak to the performers of the play afterwards, including O'Hara herself, who offered advice to the students.
At the Monday competition, six medleys were presented by the students to a seven-judge panel. Durham’s selection was from Aida, while Vander Wagen’s was from Singin’ In The Rain. Durham was then picked for a solo performance, for which she sang "Sal Tlay Ka Siti" from The Book of Mormon.
“I would like to thank everyone at Geneva for giving me this awesome opportunity as well as my parents for letting me go,” Vander Wagen states.
Durham thanks Geneva College, those involved with the Mancini awards, and her director Sandy Reigel. She plans to continue her acting career, with a major in musical theater as her next step.
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