Firestone's Moran to NYC for Jimmy Awards

Dazzled & Ready for Jimmy(s)
Posted on 05/24/2018
Image of Reyna Moran(as reported by Kerry Clawson, Beacon Journal)

Firestone High School/Akron School for the Arts senior Reyna Moran is feeling double the joy after winning Playhouse Square’s Dazzle Awards for the second year in a row Saturday night at the Connor Palace.

Moran, 18, of Akron, won the high school musical theater honor in the third annual Playhouse Square competition for her role as vaudeville performer and celebrity murderess Velma Kelly in Chicago in April.

“The whole week I was just prepared, like ‘oh, this could never happen again,’ ” Moran said Tuesday at school. “I was preparing myself to congratulate someone next to me.”

The odds of the school winning another best actress award were good; Firestone dominated the field with three of six nominations, including Kate Klika as Roxie and Brooke Person as Matron Mama Morton. (Klika won best actress in the inaugural Dazzle Awards in 2016.)

Moran will join best actor winner J.R. Heckman, a junior at Solon High School, in representing Northeast Ohio at the National High School Musical Theatre Awards (the Jimmys) in New York June 18 for a week of workshops, auditions and rehearsals that will culminate with a performance and awards ceremony June 25. Like Moran, Heckman will be a repeat competitor after having won a Best Actor Dazzle two years ago at Playhouse Square. The two will compete against actors and actresses from 39 other cities from throughout the nation.

It was a big year for Firestone in the third year of the Dazzle Awards, with the high school also winning for the first time the Connor Family Best Musical award in the Tier 2 category for a budget of $10,000 or more. In other firsts, FHS’s Akron School for the Arts also brought home the Nancy and A.J. Stokes Best Student Orchestra award and the Best Choreography Execution award for the show’s striking Fosse-esque dances.

“At Firestone, we always push each other,’’ Moran said. “It’s just a very passionate group of people and I think we all take what we do so seriously. … Yes, it’s good to do well as an individual. but it feels even better to see your peers succeed with you.”

The actress said Velma was a dream role for her and she started studying the part a year ago, as soon as FHS director Mark Zimmerman announced the 2018 show: “Velma knows what she wants and she’s a go-getter.”

Moran’s best actress honor was based on both auditions with professionals at Playhouse Square and adjudicators’ scores at each of the high school shows.

Last year, Moran hit the ground running in New York with rehearsals within an hour and a half of arriving at New York University.

Her mentor for the week was Randy Graff, who originated the role of Fantine in Les Misérables on Broadway.

Zimmerman had been trying to get the rights to Chicago, whose revival has been running on Broadway since 1996, for a decade.

“It was worth the wait, I think, because we ended up with the best group of people for that show,’’ Zimmerman said of his graduating seniors.

He said the sophisticated satire on celebrity murderesses was ahead of its time when it premiered in 1975 but is highly topical today. And not only are the rights difficult to get due to the ongoing national tour, it’s a mature show for high schoolers to do. Directing at an arts school, Zimmerman felt it was important to produce this challenging work.

“We’re supposed to be leading the charge. I think we should be out in front of the shows that high schools do and setting an example for how it can be done,” he said.

Moran will attend Baldwin Wallace University in the fall as a musical theater major.

To prepare for the Jimmys, BW music theater program director Victoria Bussert will coach her and Heckman in their song selections.

Last year at the Jimmys, working with so many talented students and professionals, Moran learned even more about what a collaborative effort theater is.

“I just had a different perspective on performing. It’s much more than just the technical things. Your heart just really has to be in it,’’ she said.

“And I learned that you can learn so much from the people around you.”
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