Tony Moreno and Sofia Deler, two Orange County high school students from the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts’s Applause Awards program won awards for Best Actor and Best Actress on Monday evening at The Jimmy® Awards in New York City.
Moreno and Deler competed against 72 other students from across the country for the top prize in a ceremony at Broadway’s Minskoff Theatre that was hosted by 2017 Tony® Award winner for Best Actor in a Leading Role in a Musical, Ben Platt, of Dear Evan Hansen. This is the first time in the 9-year history of the Jimmy Awards that both winners come from the same program and city.
“This is incredible,” says Dana Brazil, director of education at Dr. Phillips Center, who leads the local Applause Awards program for the arts center. “These kids inspire me every day. It’s so wonderful for their extraordinary talent to be recognized on this level from this prestigious program. We are so proud of what they have accomplished.”
“We are fortunate to have such talent in Central Florida,” says Kathy Ramsberger, president and CEO of Dr. Phillips Center. “Tony and Sofia are shining examples of work ethic, determination and blinding talent. A huge congratulations to them, their parents and their high schools, and much gratitude for representing Dr. Phillips Center and the Orlando community so well.”
Deler and Moreno were nominated to compete in the national program after they earned Applause Awards for performances in their local high school productions during the 2016 – 2017 academic year. Moreno, a recent graduate of Trinity Preparatory School, was selected for his performance as Don Quixote/Cervantes in Man of La Mancha, and Deler, a rising junior at Boone High School, was selected for her role as Woman #1 in Songs for a New World. Both students performed numbers from their respective shows, performing with other students in a series of medleys that showcased their performances: Moreno sang “The Impossible Dream” and Deler sang “I’m Not Afraid of Anything.” Eight finalists were selected to perform another solo number for the sold-out audience prior to the winners’ selection. Moreno performed “Disappear” from The Burnt Part Boys by Nathan Tysen and Chris Miller, and Deler performed “She Used to be Mine” from the Sara Bareilles-penned Waitress. In addition to the award itself, both students were awarded a $10,000 scholarship.
Over 1,300 high schools (35 from Central Florida) and 50,000 students participate in events that feed talent to the National High School Musical Theatre Awards (NHSMTA) program that presents The Jimmy Awards. Since the program’s inception in 2009, participating students have earned over $1,000,000 in university and conservatory scholarships. Several student participants have already been cast in Broadway, touring and West End productions.
Jimmy Award nominees arrive in New York City before the awards ceremony to prepare for their Broadway debut during a nine-day professional training intensive with NYU Tisch School of the Arts’ New Studio on Broadway faculty members plus other theatre professionals.
The six coaches – Andréa Burns, Randy Graff, Adam Kantor, Michael McElroy, Howard McGillin and Schele Williams – mentor the 74 high schools students from across America as they compete for the Best Performance by an Actor and Actress awards. Winners are selected by a panel of judges comprised of notable theatre professionals including Tony Award-winning producers, award-winning casting experts and industry professionals. This year’s judges included Kent Gash, Montego Glover, Rachel Hoffman, Kevin McCollum, Alecia Parker, Tara Rubin, Bernie Telsey and Charlotte Wilcox. Additional judges throughout the week were Paul Canaan, Wayne Cilento, Stephanie Klapper and Cesar Rocha.
The Jimmy Awards are presented by the Broadway League Foundation. Founded in 2009 by Nederlander Alliances LLC, Pittsburgh CLO and the Broadway Education Alliance (BEA), NHSMTA’s mission is to raise the profile of musical theatre in schools, recognize dedicated teachers and inspire the next generation of performers and enthusiasts. The Jimmy Awards are named in honor of the late James M. Nederlander, legendary Broadway producer/theatre owner. The NHSMTA program is supported by many leading theatre industry organizations. More information about the National High School Musical Theatre Awards program can be found at JimmyAwards.com.