Theater Finalists Compete to Move on to Jimmy Awards

“The Addams Family” along with four individual SDA students was nominated to perform at the Ben Vereen Awards.

Nominated for the title of best musical, the cast of SDA’s “The Addams Family” was welcomed to join the top high school musical programs from throughout San Diego County at the Ben Vereen awards Saturday at the Balboa Theater.

Additionally, junior Jenna Steinberg (Morticia) and sophomore Jillian Strattman (Alice) were nominated for best actress; junior Dashiell Gregory (Fester) and senior Yoni Kruvi (Gomez) were nominated for best actor.

The evening opened with a performance from “An American in Paris,” which included actors and actresses from each participating school.

Then, the emcees were welcomed to the stage. Among them was Tony award-winning actor Ben Vereen for whom the awards ceremony is named. During the ceremony, it was declared that there is now a Ben Vereen day by a representative from the City of San Diego.

After the evening was introduced, the competition between five schools for Best Musical began, which were interspersed with solo performances by the 10 male and 10 female nominees for Best Actor and Best Actress.

Toward the end of the first act, SDA’s theater performed a medley from the “Addams Family,” which included “When You’re an Addams,” “Waiting,” “One Normal Night” and “Pulled,” among others.

Following the 20 solo performances and five ensemble performances, there was a brief intermission.

After strolling back in, the audience grew quiet and suspense was built as they waited for them to announce the top three candidates for best actor and actress. Strattman, who had powerfully performed “Waiting” from “The Addams Family” as her solo in the first act, was announced as one of the finalists. She and three boys and two other girls who made the first cut were seemingly overwhelmed with joy and disbelief.

They had to gather themselves quickly though, as each candidate had to perform a second solo from a musical other than the one they were nominated for. Strattman was the last of the female performers to sing.

Between then and the final announcement of best musical, there was a live performance by a young, transgender trumpet player from the area. An ensemble from the Wellness Through the Arts program also performed.

Following those performances, Cathedral Catholic High School was awarded Best Musical for their production of “Anything Goes.”

In that window, when the judges were making final decisions, a closing number was performed. The students who performed throughout together sang selections from “On your feet!” Then, two Ben Vereen Awards alumni performed for Vereen, signing “For Good” from the Broadway hit “Wicked.” Vereen then sang a quick song, which drew the performers from the wings backstage to stand beside him on stage.

Then, at last, the winners were announced. Sky Frank, an actor from the San Diego School of Creative and Performing Arts won Best Actor, and Strattman won Best Actress.

For their accomplishments, the two will be sent to the national high school musical theater awards, or the Jimmy’s, this summer in New York City. They will learn from professionals and perform on a Broadway stage.