NEW YORK — A 17-year-old New Yorker math and science whiz and an 18-year-old Californian who will study musical theater in college have won top honors at the National High School Musical Theater Awards.
Anthony Skillman, of Tustin, California, was named best actor and Marla Louissaint, of New York City, was named best actress Monday night at the seventh-annual "Glee"-like competition, nicknamed the Jimmy Awards after theater owner James Nederlander.
Louissaint sang "I'm Here" from "The Color Purple" for her solo — a song that helped convince her parents to let her sing and act — and Skillman sang "It Don't Make Sense" from Jason Robert Brown's musical "Parade."
Louissaint parents watched their daughter take the trophy and got huge hugs afterward. Her grandmother was also in the audience, despite just undergoing a radiation treatment.
She will attend Fordham University in the fall studying electrical engineering and hope to keep singing on the side. "I'm open to anything that comes my way," she said Tuesday. "I'm really excited about what's ahead."
Skillman just graduated from high school and will next attend college at Texas State University for musical theater. "I'm still in shock," he said. "I feel so honored and blessed to have the opportunity."
Each will receive a $10,000 scholarship award, capping a monthslong 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," which doesn't perform on Mondays.
The 52 teens who made it to New York this year — 26 girls and 26 boys — got a five-day theatrical boot camp fueled by pizza at New York University's Tisch School of the Arts, complete with scrambling to learn an opening and closing group number, performing their medley numbers and advice on their solo songs, plus a field trip to watch "An American in Paris."
The judges were Bernie Telsey and Rachel Hoffman from casting company Telsey + Company, Disney Theatrical Group head Thomas Schumacher, New York University's Kent Gash, National Artists Management Company leader Alecia Parker, casting specialist Tara Rubin, and Nick Scandalios from the Nederlander Organization.
The host was two-time Tony Award winner Michael Cerveris, who is starring on Broadway in "Fun Home." Four runners-up will each receive $2,500.
Mark Kennedy can be reached at http://twitter.com/KennedyTwits