The 2018 National High School Musical Theatre Awards — better known as the Jimmy Awards and recognized as a breeding ground for future stars — go down Monday.
As always, the Wharton Center for Performing Arts is sending two of Michigan’s own prodigal actors/actresses, Elizabeth “Betsy” Miller, from John Glenn High School in Bay City, and Jeremy VandenHout, from Caledonia High School.
Miller and VandenHout earned their entries into the Jimmy Awards after competing against 44 other students at Wharton’s Sutton Foster Ovation Award competition. Now they are competing on a national level against their top peers.
Sutton Foster Ovation Awards can lead to notable successes. Last year’s male winner, Antonio Cipriano, has since been cast in a Broadway-bound musical reimagining of Alanis Morrissette’s “Jagged Little Pill,” written by the Academy Award-winning Diablo Cody.
City Pulse caught up with Miller as she prepares for her trip to the Jimmy Awards in New York.
What sparked your interest in theater?
I started theater at the Midland Center for the Arts when I was a little baby doing “Annie.” I played Annie, and that’s what sparked my interest. I kept doing theater and I transferred to a high school that was really for theater, John Glenn High School. I thought that that was the best fit for me, because they did a lot of programs, including one act, thespians, forensics — a lot of acting competitions and other programs that are tied to it. My drama teacher, Jeanne Gilbert, really inspired me to do theater and give it my all. She was the one who really was advocating for me to come to the school. She inspired me to do theater all throughout high school and she signed me up for the Sutton Foster Ovation Awards.
I’m sure you’re aware of the success of previous Sutton Foster Ovation Awardwinners. How do you feel about that?
Are you excited or nervous?
I’m very excited actually. I think it’s so inspiring that people that came from Michigan and won the award are doing such amazing things. I really look up to Antonio, because I think to myself and I say, hey, that really could be me. I think that this opportunity just opened so many doors for people.
My nerves are kind of acting up a little bit as it gets closer, but I am so, so excited.
It’s kind of like I’m going from one thing to another, because I’ll be at the Jimmy Awards that whole week, then I’m going straight to Interlochen and I’ll be spending six weeks up there doing their production program.
I actually have an audition for Interlochen’s production of “The Music Man,” I’m going to be trying out for Marion. It’s just so crazy how these opportunities have come up for me and the Wharton Center has really made it super easy.
Do you have any plans to attend to a certain university, certain schools, certain programs? What’s your game plan?
I’m very interested in U of M, of course, like any musical theater person. Carnegie Mellon has always been my interest, and NYU. Of course I feel like those are my top three, or maybe the University of Cincinnati. I’m really going for U of M, NYU and Carnegie Mellon, but you never know.