By Perry Tannenbaum
I suppose that I should begin by saying that Central Academy of Technology and Arts swept the top trophies last Sunday evening at the 5th Annual Blumey Awards. Their production of Ragtime won the Wells Fargo Best Musical for high-budget productions, and the show earned two of its stars tickets to New York for the Jimmy Awards, which recognize, mentor, and present the top high school performers in the nation in fine Broadway style. Our reps up in the Big Apple on June 27 will be Justin Rivers, who was Coalhouse Walker, and Amina Faye, who was his wife Sarah.
And hey, if you didn’t know, Central Academy of Technology and Arts is in Monroe.
Even if you were at the live ceremonies in Belk Theater, you might have assumed that Central Academy was a Charlotte school: the partisan screaming for them when they performed the “Prologue” from Ragtime was that loud. The almost universal standing ovation they drew validated it.
But Central wasn’t the only finalist from out of town to bring spirit, excitement, and enthusiasm at high decibels. Nation Ford High brought their “Under the Sea” sampling of The Little Mermaid from down in Fort Mill. Butler High, presenting “Brotherhood of Man” from How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, rode in from Matthews. And cfa Academy, singing the dum-diddle-eyes of “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” from Mary Poppins, hailed from Concord.
Their parents, teachers, and schoolmates were as loudly supportive as the winners’. Nor did these faraway schools go away empty-handed. Butler High’s Rickey-Levon Burch II was Best Featured Performer, and cfa took home top honors for Best Choreography, Best Set Construction, and Best Tier 1 Musical (budget under $10K). Other out-of-towners who were gleeful on their rides home were Hickory Ridge High from Harrisburg for Best Costume Creation (A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum) and Libby Hatfield, from Arborbrook Christian Academy in Matthews, who took the Best Supporting Actress laurels (You’re a Good Man, Charley Brown).
Oh, and Central Academy added to their haul of trophies with Best Overall Direction honors.
Charlotte high schools had less to cheer about. Ethan Holtzman’s yeoman work as the Pirate King in The Pirates of Penzance brought the glory of Best Supporting Actor to Charlotte Latin School, and Ardrey Kell High won a pair of prizes, for Best Ensemble/Chorus and Best Student Orchestra (Mary Poppins).
Yet cheer they certainly did. All 43 of the competing schools were involved in the opening number and the finale, with two representatives from each school plus the Best Actor/Actress and Best Supporting Actor/Actress nominees. When they sang “We’re on the Air” to kick off the ceremonies and “Don’t Be Surprised” to conclude them, the cheering was so loud that you couldn’t really hear the 19-piece Blumey Awards Orchestra or the nearly 100 voices onstage.
Either you bask in this pandemonium or add to it. As you’d expect, jolts of the same electricity came when ensembles performed and winners were announced – but partisans also punctuated the evening with raucous cheers almost every time a nominee’s name flashed onto the huge projection screen over the Belk stage. I’ve witnessed similar outbursts at the defunct Metrolina Theatre Awards and when Creative Loafing’s Charlotte Theatre Awards were briefly a live event.
Multiply that by about 25 and you’ll get the idea of how big and how electric the Blumey Awards have become. You can get a taste of it next month: WTVI jumped aboard this year, their Amy Burkett co-hosting with WBT’s Maureen O’Boyle, and the PBS affiliate will rebroadcast the whole shebang on June 14 at 8pm.
Concentrating on the Belk stage and hall, WTVI may not capture the full impact of the live event. As a judge for both the MTA and CL Awards, I found that the presentation ceremonies had an Oscar Night vibe, with folks I’d normally bump into – or review – at local theaters all dressed-up and in their sophisticated red-carpet mode. There was a lot of that at Belk Theater last Sunday – just three weeks before the Tony Awards, after all. But with those special infusions of high school pep, hormonal frenzy, and hysteria, the Blumeys are more like Oscar Night and Prom Night rolled into one.
Forgot to mention: These kids have talent to burn. You’ll discover that in the rebroadcast.