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Kimmel Cultural Campus proudly sponsors the Philadelphia Independence Awards

Posted by:  Lindsay Goldschmidt, Kimmel Cultural Campus Public Relations Intern on June 23, 2022

The Kimmel Cultural Campus is a proud sponsor of the Philadelphia Independence Awards, a participant event in the National High School Musical Theatre Awards®, more commonly known as the Jimmy Awards®. The awards recognize and celebrate high school students’ achievements in the performing arts - presenting awards to recognize excellence in singing, acting, and dancing, as well as design elements and student-led marketing teams.

Students recognized at the Philadelphia Independence Awards may be eligible to represent the Philadelphia region at the national level if they advance as a finalist to the Jimmy Awards®. Finalists spend a week together in New York City, participating in masterclasses with Broadway performers, practicing their numbers, and then finally performing on a real Broadway stage. It is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for many of the students who come from across the country to compete. Apart from the honor and notoriety that comes with being a Jimmy Award® finalist, educational scholarships are also given to various recipients each year, totaling over $2 million of scholarships presented since the awards began in 2009.

Our Senior Director of Programming & Presentations (and resident Tony Award voter!) Frances Egler with the 2021 Philadelphia Independence Award winners, Rin Smith and Benjamin Brown

As part of the Kimmel Cultural Campus’ mission to inspire youth and provide arts education resources, we first partnered with the regional Philadelphia Independence Awards in 2020. In 2021, we were lucky enough to have one of our own Kimmel education students from the ShowStoppers AllStars program selected as a finalist!! Though held virtually, the Kimmel hosted a viewing party on our Cultural Campus for friends and family to watch the livestreamed program.

The 2022 Philadelphia Independence Awards took place on May 23 at Temple University’s Performing Arts Center. The evening included a celebration of the 17 local high school programs nominated, including distribution of awards and performances from the nominees. The night’s big winners included talent from Central Bucks High School’s production of Amelie, The Haverford School’s production of Something Rotten, and Germantown Academy’s production of Newsies, among several other outstanding high school musicals from this past academic year. Rounding out the big night were Philadelphia’s Jimmy Award® nominees: Lily Flynn for her performance as Amelie in Central Bucks High School’s Amelie, and Benjamin Brown for his performance as Percy Jackson in Upper Dublin High School’s Lightning Thief: The Percy Jackson Musical. The two will now compete in the 2022 Jimmy Awards® that take place on June 27 at Broadway’s Minskoff Theatre and live streamed live on Facebook and YouTube.

Since launching in 2009, the Jimmy Awards® have produced an impressive set of alumni who had their careers launched by participating (and many winning) the awards. See below for a selection of Jimmy Award alums from their award performances to Broadway debuts and be sure to click each photo to see their performance!

Eva Noblezada

Eva’s solo performance of “With You” from Ghost The Musical

After being nominated in 2013 for her performance as Ariel Moore in her high school production of Footloose, Eva Noblezada advanced to the final round of that year’s Jimmy Awards®. Despite not taking home the coveted Best Actress title, Noblezada’s professional career swiftly took off in the years that followed. In 2014, Noblezada made her West End debut as the leading role of Kim in Miss Saigon and then  took over as Eponine in Les Misérables in 2016.

Performing at the 2017 Tony Awards with the company of Miss Saigon

Just one year later, Miss Saigon was revived on Broadway with Noblezada reprising her role as Kim, making her Broadway debut, and earning Eva her very first Tony nomination for Best Actress in a Leading Role in a Musical at the astoundingly young age of 21.  In 2019, she then originated the role of Eurydice in Hadestown on Broadway and earned her second Tony nomination. Since then, Noblezada has also made her big screen debut starring alongside the legendary Lea Salonga (who originated the role of Kim in Miss Saigon) in the 2019 film Yellow Rose.

 

Andrew Barth Feldman

His Jimmy Award performance of “I Love Betsy” from Honeymoon in Vegas

                The 2018 Jimmy Awards® winners were arguably one of the most iconic slates of students to be recognized in the program’s history with both immediately going on to make their Broadway debuts in major productions. Andrew Barth Feldman was nominated for his performance as Frank Abagnale Jr. in his high school’s production of Catch Me If You Can, earning himself the award for Best Actor with his unforgettable solo performance of “I Love Betsy” in the finalist round. Not even a year after Feldman won this prestigious award, he made his Broadway debut at the age of 16 years old as the titular role of Evan Hansen in Dear Evan Hansen. His performance was widely praised by critics and fans with a run lasting almost a full year.

Andrew making his Broadway debut in Dear Evan Hansen

He since has been featured in shows at Feinstein’s 54 Below, an album by writer Joe Iconis (Be More Chill), and was a high-profile appearance as Linguini in the live-streamed Ratatouille The TikTok Musical - the brainchild of countless TikTok creators. Feldman has also made his television debut as a recurring character on season 2 of Disney+’s original hit series, High School Musical the Musical the Series alongside Olivia Rodrigo and Joshua Bassett. Feldman is slated to make his feature film debut in an upcoming Netflix original, titled A Tourist’s Guide to Love. Feldman is now choosing to further his education, announcing his intent to pursue studies at Harvard University. This does not mean he has been any less of a driving force in the theatre, television, and film industries.

 

Renee Rapp

Her award-winning performance of “All Falls Down” from Chaplin

                Another big winner from the 2018 Jimmy Awards® was Renee Rapp, who took home the Best Actress award for her performance as Sandra Bloom in her high school production of Big Fish. Like Feldman, Rapp was widely praised for her solo in the finalist round, where she performed a powerful rendition of “All Falls Down” from the musical Chaplin. Shortly following her Jimmys® win, Rapp made her Broadway debut as first replacement for the iconic role of Regina George in Mean Girls. She graced the stage as Regina for the rest of the production’s run on Broadway through March 2020.

Renee singing “World Burn” from Mean Girls

Since the closing of Mean Girls, Rapp starred in the first season of HBO Max’s The Sex Life of College Girls, a critically acclaimed series produced by Mindy Kaling and released her debut single, “Tattoos,” which can be streamed on any major music streaming platform.

 

Antonio Cipriano

Antonio performing “Lost In The Wilderness” from Children of Eden

A finalist in the 2017 Jimmy Awards®, Antonio Cipriano kickstarted his professional career after he was nominated for his performance as Mickey McKee in his high school’s production of Hello! My Baby. The following year, Cipriano joined the cast if the hit musical Jagged Little Pillbased on Alanis Morrisette’s groundbreaking album, originating the role of Phoenix from early stages of development through the show’s transfer to Broadway.

Performing “Head Over Feet” with Celia Rose Gooding in Jagged Little Pill

Cipriano recently participated in a workshop of a stage adaptation of The Notebook, with music written by Emmy-nominated singer-songwriter Ingrid Michaelson. Like Rapp, Cipriano also made an appearance in HBO Max’s The Sex Life of College Girls. Currently, Cipriano is slated to star in a supernatural horror series called Safehaven and in the Disney+ series National Treasure.

 

Ryan McCartan

Ryan performing “Someone to Fall Back On” by Jason Robert Brown

                2011 Best Actor winner Ryan McCartan earned his nomination for her performance as J. Pierrepont Finch in his high school’s production of How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying. After his success at the Jimmys®, McCartan went on to pursue his BFA at the University of Minnesota but left shortly into his studies to accept the role of Diggie on the Disney Channel series Liv and Maddie. The show ran for four seasons with McCartan was a series regular.

Singing “Freeze Your Brain” from Heathers

Never leaving his theater roots though, McCartan originated the role of JD in the wildly popular off-Broadway production of Heathers in 2014, and played the role of Brad Majors in the The Rocky Horror Picture Show: Let’s Do the Time Warp Againspecial on Fox in 2016. He made his Broadway debut as  Fiyero in Wicked in 2018 and then starred as Hans in Frozen until the show closed in 2020.

 

These five stars just scrape the surface of the rich alumni network the Jimmys® has formed over the years. Philadelphia’s very own Lily Flynn and Benjamin Brown join the best of the best, and the achievement of even making it to a Broadway stage during the Jimmy Awards is truly no small feat. The Jimmy Awards® website currently cites 39 Broadway and touring professionals (past and present) who were at one time Jimmy Award® nominees. With the rich history this program has at just 12 years old, this number is sure to grow in the years to come.

Watch the 2022 Jimmy Awards on June 27 streaming live on Facebook and Youtube hosted by Kate Reinders. And then learn more about our regional Philadelphia Independence Awards and the musical theater offerings we have at the Kimmel Cultural Campus!

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