Sasha Smith, Lee Normandeau and Gabriel Frakes will audition Monday at the Iowa High School Musical Theater Awards Showcase in Des Moines for a chance to represent Iowa at the National High School Musical Theater Awards this summer in New York City.
“It’s probably the biggest thing that’s ever happened in my career” said Jane Warner, CCHS choir director.
The competition, called “Triple Threat” — for its focus on acting, singing and dancing, recognizes students for their performances in the Creston Community High School musical “Footloose.” Theater professionals attended high school musicals all over the country and selected students for the showcase.
A coaching session with Broadway professionals will give the students a chance to hone their performances before performing selections from the musical, a Broadway medley and other songs of their choosing for the judges and audience Monday evening.
One male and one female from Iowa will be chosen to go to New York.
Smith helped design and teach the choreography for “Footloose.” She said Leslie Tyler taught her the steps for the main number in about half an hour and then two hours later, Smith had to teach it to the rest of the cast.
Smith said the experience gave her a new respect for choreographers and the work that goes into a musical.
Smith said she has wanted to pursue a Broadway career for a long time.
“Broadway is my life,” she said. “Even if I don’t win, it’s a life changing experience for me because I get to work with so many people that have the same interests that I do. It’s just an amazing honor.”
Smith credited Spotlight School of Dance and Warner for helping her develop the skills she needed to succeed.
“I have everything to give to them, she said. “They’ve taught me so much.”
Gabriel Frakes said he did not take choir his freshman and sophomore years and wasn’t going to audition for a part in “Footloose” his junior year. He missed the preliminary auditions, but Warner encouraged him to try out and had him perform in front of the class the next day. He ended up getting the role of Willard.
Frakes said he is glad everyone encouraged him to step out of his comfort zone.
“I really found out how to get my voice out there, and everyone cheered me on," said Frakes. “So that really boosted my confidence level. ... If I had not been persuaded, I wouldn’t be where I am right now.”
When asked about the steps he took to rise to this level, Normandeau listed the activities he’s been involved in, such as four musicals and the freshmen/sophomore one-act plays, as both an actor and a director, but credited Warner with his success.
“She helped me a lot,” Normandeau said. “I started off freshman year as a monkey in ‘Seussical.’ I had three lines,”
During the showcase, Warner will be honored with an impact award honoring her for her dedication to high school music and the impact she has made on the community and her students through music.
Marika Chubick spearheaded the process of nominating Warner for the award and will present it on stage Monday.
“I found out about the award last year when I was watching the showcase. ... If anyone fits the criteria for this award, it’s Mrs. Warner,” said Chubick. “She mentors me. She made me the actress and musician that I am today.”
“She’s been a mother to all of us, a mother to the choir,” Normandeau said. “She’s always staying after school to help me, help other kids learn how to be better than they are; teaching them how to be better performers, better singers, better dancers, better actors. She helps a lot of kids to come out of their comfort zones.”
The process required gathering seven letters of recommendation from staff and students, including CCHS Principal Bill Messerole and Assistant Principal Jeff Bevins and a two page statement about Warner’s background and contributions. The process took a month.
Chubick said when she was gathering the seven letters, she received 15.
Warner was emotional when presented with the packet of letters to send in for the award.
“She started crying,” Normandeau said. “She read all the letters.”
In addition to the three Triple Threat students, Brance Baker, Devin Buls and Chubick will perform an inter-school medley directed by a guest Broadway music director and choreographer, and many members of the cast of CCHS’s “Footloose” will perform an excerpt of the show.
Tickets to the event are available at https://desmoinesperformingarts.org. The Iowa awards will be livestreamed on Iowa Public Television’s Facebook page and iptv.org 7 p.m. Monday. A watch party will be held CCHS’s auditorium during the livestream. A special highlighting the event will air on IPTV 8:30 p.m June 28.