Norman High School wins theater award

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Four Norman High School students, Sofia Daves (top left), Maya Jacobs (top right), Katelyn Loomis (bottom left) and Taylor Loomis (bottom right), competed for the Outstanding Performance by an Actress award at the Kelli O’Hara Oklahoma High School Musical Theatre Awards last night in Oklahoma City. Though they did not take home the award, NHS did win Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble.

A group of thespian Tigers went back into the woods Sunday. They emerged victorious.

Norman High School won Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble at the inaugural Oklahoma High School Musical Theatre Awards at the Oklahoma City Civic Center Music Hall.

NHS was the only school invited to compete for both Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble and Outstanding Musical Performance at the competition named after Broadway star and Oklahoma native Kelli O’ Hara.

NHS vocal music director Stephania Abell said her students were excited to hear about their nominations.

“They screamed and cheered like high schoolers do,” she said.

The students competed in front of a committee of Oklahoma theater professionals presenting the act II finale of “Into the Woods,” which they revived from their full-length performance in November.

“It had been six months since we’d closed our show, so we had to get our act together and have a couple of rehearsals so we could remember where everybody stood and who moves where and adjust for stage spacing,” Abell said.

Spotlight awards were also given to students who did not have leading roles, but stood out in their ensemble work.

Abell said NHS student Thomas Payton won for his performance as Milky White the cow in “Into the Woods.”

“It was so fun to watch him get that, because everybody loves Thomas,” she said. “To shine in the role of Milky White and have no lines is pretty awesome.”

NHS also had four students — Sofia Daves, Maya Jacobs, Katelyn Loomis and Taylor Loomis — compete against 16 other finalists from schools across central and western Oklahoma for the Outstanding Performance by an Actress award and the opportunity to attend the National High School Musical Theatre Awards in New York.

Choctaw High School’s CJ Craig and Edmond Santa Fe High School’s Arden Hearne emerged on top and are bound for New York.

“It’s a chance to give them some inspiration and motivation that they are amongst these other 100 [to] 200 students from across the country that are the best in their respective regions,” Civic Center director and OKC Broadway general manager Elizabeth Gray said. “It’s a combination of inspiration, motivation and creating that drive in them to continue to chase their dreams.”

Although Norman High’s nominees didn’t win this year, Abell said it would be both beneficial and fun to have an NHS student compete at the national awards.

“That’d be big time,” she said. “We’d get to meet people from everywhere who do what they do in all of their own home towns.”

Gray said establishing the Kelli O’Hara awards raises the level of talent in Oklahoma and will hopefully lead to, “a whole new generation of Oklahomans on Broadway.”

“It’s our ultimate hope that this tells our local politicians and even our national politicians that musical theater...and performing arts education in general is important, and it’s something that needs to be cultivated at a local level,” Gray said.

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