No technical honors. No music wins. As the awards ceremony continued at Buell Theatre in Denver, the hopes of Durango High School Troupe 1096 began to falter. Would their highly acclaimed performance of “Les Misérables” go home unrecognized at the Bobby G Awards, the statewide competition for high school musical theater?
“And then lead actress is announced,” said Kristen Winchester-White, who directed the musical with Landon Newton. “The female representing Colorado at the National High School Musical Theatre (Jimmy) Awards in New York City is Emma Buchanan. Thunderous applause, crazy excited jumping from the Durango section.”
Buchanan, who graduated from DHS on Friday and played Eponine in the musical, was barely off the stage before the Durango section went wild again – Evatt Salinger, who played Jean Valjean and also graduated, was named lead actor in a musical.
“What? They actually picked two Durango students for the Jimmy Awards?” Winchester-White said. “It was obvious they were the standouts, but I thought they would never actually pick two students from the same school.”
And then, as Salinger left the stage after a moving thank-you, the big announcement came, winner of Outstanding Overall Production of a Musical Award.
“As I walk to the stage in tears, thinking, ‘I have to give a speech,’ I fill with immense pride,” Winchester-White said. “Durango freaking Colorado wins the top three and most revered awards at the Bobby G Award Ceremony.”This is the third year of the Bobby G Awards – named after the late theater producer Robert Garner, who established the Mile High City as a top destination for touring Broadway shows – and the first year the awards were opened to schools statewide. DHS is the 89th largest high school in the state, and it went up against arts magnet schools and theater programs, particularly on the Front Range, that are much more highly funded.
“The change produced a storybook evening tonight for a newcomer located nearly 400 miles southwest of Denver,” said John Moore, senior arts journalist of the Denver Center for the Performing Arts. “The ceremony was emotional throughout, culminating with Salinger’s poignant testament to both his school and two families, both biological and theatrical.”
Evatt and Salinger will spend the week of June 24-30 training with the other 54 lead actor and actress winners in workshops led by Broadway actors, directors and choreographers. The grand prize national Jimmy Award winners will perform for one night at Broadway’s Minskoff Theatre.
“This is a big deal, it’s like our Tony Awards,” said Heidi Bosk, senior public relations and promotions manager for the Denver Performing Arts Complex. The awards are a great start for their next stage of education. Salinger, who also competes on the DHS Aerospace Design Team, has declared a theater and music major with a minor in mathematics at Pepperdine University in Malibu, California. He’s attending on a full-ride scholarship. Buchanan will pursue a bachelor’s degree in musical theater at Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio.