At Idyllwild Arts Academy (IAA), we have the privilege of watching our talented students soar to new heights. Musical Theatre major Omar Andre Real did just that—and on a Broadway stage—this year at the Jimmy Awards, a national theatre competition. Performing among student nominees from high schools across the U.S., Andre became a finalist in the 2023 Jimmy Awards and was selected by his peers for the “Spirit of the Jimmys” award.
The Jimmy Awards, or The National High School Musical Theatre Awards (NHSMTA), were established in 2009 and have come to be known as the high school version of the Tony Awards, or “the Tonys for teenagers.” Their mission is “to elevate the importance of theatre arts education in schools and reward excellence in student performance.”
Andre’s Journey to the Jimmys
Andre’s journey began at the Lucie Arnaz Awards in Palm Springs, CA, a regional competition celebrating outstanding achievement in high school musical theatre throughout California’s Inland Empire (including the San Bernardino and Riverside counties).
This was one of 48 regional awards programs that took place this year, each sponsored by a professional theatre. Every year, these competitions involve over 140,000 high school students from across the country.
At the Lucie Arnaz Awards, IAA won Best Musical for its production of BAT BOY: The Musical, a rock musical and dark comedy that follows a half-bat, half-human boy trying to find acceptance in a town fraught with suspicion, secrets, and schemes. For his performance as the titular Bat Boy, Andre won the 2023 Lucie Arnaz Award for Best Actor. This made him a Jimmy Award nominee and won him fully-funded, round-trip travel to NYC.
Next stop: New York City, for Andre’s Broadway debut. When Andre arrived in NYC, he came face-to-face with his own headshot on a Jimmy Awards billboard in Times Square, and it only got better from there!
After an action-packed week of rehearsals, workshops, and masterclasses—not to mention the fun of being a tourist—Andre performed in the Jimmy Awards ceremony alongside 95 other nominees from 31 different states. The fully sold-out, one-night-only program was held at the Minskoff Theatre on Broadway and consisted of ensemble numbers, showcase medleys, finalist solos, and (of course) the awards, hosted by Broadway star Corbin Bleu (whom you may recognize as Chad from the iconic High School Musical movies).
Awards and Applause
Among all the exceptionally talented young artists, Andre was selected by a panel of judges as one of only eight finalists, a distinction that earned him the incredible opportunity to perform a solo number to the full house. His outstanding performance of “I’m Alive” from the musical, Next to Normal, can be viewed here.
Of course, you can’t have an awards ceremony without the awards. On top of winning a $3,000 scholarship for being one of the eight finalists, Andre won the “Spirit of the Jimmys” award and an additional $2,000 scholarship. The “Spirit of the Jimmys” award is given to one nominee for “embodying the spirit of this musical theatre celebration,” as voted by their peers in the competition. This year, the award was presented by the Disney Theatrical Group (which encompasses Disney on Broadway) and their president, Thomas Schumacher, a well-known theatrical producer.
“Andre is one of those young artists that is very deserving of this honor because he is dedicated, talented, and just an amazing human being,” said Denis McCourt Stryjewski, Chair of IAA’s Dramatic Arts Department. McCourt Stryjewski worked closely with Andre during the last school year, having directed Bat Boy: The Musical. “I’m not surprised his castmates in NYC selected him for the Spirit Award.”
Why do the Jimmys matter?
The Jimmy Awards provide students with the opportunity to learn from theatre professionals, earn scholarships, and celebrate their achievements on a Broadway stage—an unforgettable experience. Moreover, many Jimmy Awards participants go on to have rewarding careers in the performing arts.
Notable Jimmy Awards alumni include Reneé Rapp, Ryan McCartan, Andrew Barth Feldman, Casey Likes, and two-time Tony Award-nominee Eva Noblezada. Sixteen Jimmy Awards alumni (including Likes and Noblezada) are currently performing on Broadway, with eight more currently performing on Broadway National Tour—there’s a reason why the Jimmy Awards are considered Broadway’s NFL Draft.
Andre has already determined to follow the same path, Broadway-bound. “Getting to meet talented artists made me remember why I do musical theatre,” he said, reflecting on his experience at the Jimmy Awards. “I had a glance at what it is like to be on Broadway, and I loved it. I will keep preparing so that when an opportunity comes, I will be ready.”
Back to Broadway
It looks like that opportunity has already arrived—impressed by his performance in the Jimmys, Broadway came calling and invited Andre back. On September 14th, Andre returned to NYC to take part in the development of a new musical, Waiting for Snow in Havana.
The project is inspired by Carlos Eire’s memoir, Waiting for Snow in Havana: Confessions of a Cuban Boy, in which Eire recounts how his “youth—with its lizards and turquoise seas and sun-drenched siestas—becomes an island of condemnation once a cigar-smoking guerrilla named Fidel Castro ousts President Batista on January 1, 1959.” Eire was “one of 14,000 children airlifted out of Havana—exiled from his family, his country, and his own childhood by Fidel Castro’s revolution” (read the full synopsis of the memoir here).
It looks like Andre’s career in the performing arts is off to a promising start—we can’t wait to see what he does next!
Everyone at Idyllwild Arts is incredibly proud of Andre for what he accomplished on the Minskoff stage and for all the hard work he has put in at IAA—the hard work that led him to Broadway.
Andre’s impressive journey to Broadway is a real-life example of the life-changing opportunities that students at Idyllwild Arts often experience. Learn more about the Theatre/Dramatic Arts program at Idyllwild Arts Academy here. Stay connected! Follow us on Instagram, where you can see more highlights from Andre’s performance. You can also find us on TikTok, Facebook, and LinkedIn.