If you’ve attended any theater productions over the last few years, you may already be aware of Nathan Salstone. The high school senior has acted in leading roles since his freshman year. His resume includes Roger in the musical Rent, Tybalt in Romeo and Juliet and most recently the Phantom in Phantom of the Opera.
But last week Salstone took his talents to the Minskoff Theatre in New York City where he and 60 other high school actors competed for the coveted Jimmy Award during the annual National High School Musical Theater Awards (NHSTA).
Saltone and Meadow Nguy of O’Fallon Township High School in southern Illinois both qualified for the Jimmy Award by competing in the Illinois High School Theater Awards. This is the first time students from Illinois have reached the national competition.
Salstone didn't get much rest during his New York visit. For five days he received private coaching and group lessons from theater professionals, members of New York University's New Studio on Broadway and NYU's Tisch School of the Arts.
“It was amazing,” Salstone said. “We started at 8:30 in the morning and kept going until 10:30 or so at night.”
The NHSMTA were founded in 2009 by Pittsburg CLO, one of the country’s leading not-for-profit producers of musical theater, and Nederlander Alliances, LLC to connect young performers to the theater industry. The Jimmy Award for Best Performance by an Actress and Best Performance by an Actor gets its name from the legendary Broadway theater owner and producer James M. Nederlander.
Jimmy Award contestants were judged on solo performances, then they performed in medleys with five other actors. They all performed together in the opening and closing acts.
“We didn’t know who would be in the finals until the actual awards show,” Salstone said. “After the intermission they announced the six finalists and they performed their solos.”
Joshua Grosso of Florida and Elizabeth Romero from California took home the Jimmy Awards as well as $10,000 to further their education. The four runners-up also received $2500 scholarships, but Salstone felt they were all winners.
“It was so incredible. I didn’t want to leave the stage at the end of the performance. We were all crying and happy — we’d become so close in just a few days.”
His mother, Judith Salstone, traveled with his grandparents to see the performance. “I couldn’t be happier and more proud of him,” she said. “The experience was life changing.”
Julie Ann Robinson, Saltone’s theater teacher at GBN also traveled to New York to see the awards show.
“I wouldn’t have missed it for the world,” she said “Nathan is a born performer and a super talent, but I think he’s been trying to decide if this is something he would like to make a career out of. I think this experience gave him a taste of what it would be like to be a professional performer.”
Robinson was also impressed with the guest list at the awards performance. “This is a premiere event and there were big name producers, actors and directors there,” she added.
Salstone has come a long way since his first acting roles at the , but a glimpse of his future in New York was evident even then. He performed in Babes on Broadway when he was five years old.
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