The 2014 Jimmy Awards finalists at Broadway's Minskoff Theatre.
(© David Gordon

The sixth annual National High School Musical Theater Awards (better known as the Jimmy Awards after Broadway producer James M. Nederlander) were held yesterday evening at Broadway's Minskoff Theatre. Fifty-six finalists, who earned top honors at their respective regional competitions, performed to vie for the Best Actor and Actress titles.

The students performed an opening number, followed by a series of group numbers, featuring them in their award-winning roles. Six finalists (three male and three female) were then selected after the intermission to perform solo numbers, which determined the final results.

This year's winners were Jai' Len Josey, representing the Georgia High School Musical Theater Awards—Shuler Hensley Awards, and Jonah Rawitz, representing the Illinois High School Musical Theater Awards. Josey was additionally selected to attend Carnegie Mellon University's six-week Pre-College Drama program. Tony-nominated Rocky star Andy Karl then helped the students close out the show with a performance of the song "Keep on Standing" from the Broadway musical.

James L. Nederlander, chairman of the Nederlander Organization, presented each winner with a check for $10,000 to further their education. Josey and Rawitz will also be eligible for a four-year merit and a need-based scholarship to attend the New Studio on Broadway, NYU Tisch School of the Arts Department of Drama, contingent upon acceptance into the program. Four runners-up also received $2,500 scholarships from the Barry and Fran Weissler Foundation. These winners were Matthew Richards (Layton, Utah), Brooke Solan (Las Vegas), Sophia Tzougros (Dousman, Wisconsin), and Mekhai Lee (Charlotte, North Carolina).

Jimmy Awards host Ryan McCartan
Ryan McCartan hosted the 2014 Jimmy Awards.
(© David Gordon)

Three additional awards were presented to English Bernhardt (Wakeforest, North Carolina) for Best Performance in an Ensemble, Joshua Velez (Torrance, California) for Most Improved, and Matthew Washington (Cary, North Carolina) for Spirit of the Jimmy Awards.

The ceremony was hosted by 2011 Jimmy Award winner Ryan McCartan, who recently starred as JD in off-Broadway's Heathers The Musical. McCartan is also well known for his regular role as Diggy on the Disney Channel series Liv & Maddie as well as for his recurring character on USA Network's Royal Pains.

The production was directed by Van Kaplan and choreographed by Kiesha Lalama, with musical direction by Michael Moricz. The winners were selected by a panel of Broadway professionals including Kent Gash (founding director if the New Studio on Broadway, NYU Tisch School of the Arts Department of Drama), casting director Rachel Hoffman (Telsey Co), Tony-winning producer Arielle Tepper Madover, casting director Tara Rubin, Nick Scandalios (executive vice president of the Nederlander Organization), and Sergio Trujillo (award-winning choreographer).

Jai' Len Josey accepts her National High School Musical Theater Award onstage at the Minskoff Theatre.
Jai' Len Josey accepts her National High School Musical Theater Award onstage at the Minskoff Theatre.
(© Genevieve Rafter Keddy)