Excitement began building around the Deerfield High School theater community when members of the cast of “Crazy for You” were nominated in five of seven categories for the Broadway in Chicago Illinois High School Musical Theater Awards.
On May 6, Jacob Simon, a senior who graduated May 30, won the best actor award, and Susan Gorman, theater director, won best director among the 72 Illinois schools in the eighth annual competition in Chicago.
For Simon, the award was a step toward a possible bigger prize. He is one of two people from Illinois and 84 around the country who will compete for a best high school actor or actress Jimmy Award June 24 on a Broadway stage in New York City.
Named for Broadway theater owner James M. Nederlander, the Jimmy Awards, also known as the National High School Musical Theater Awards, are more than an awards gala. Simon, who played Bobby Child in “Crazy for You,” said he and the others present highlights from their shows to judges to narrow the field to finalists.
“It’s an intense week-long theater workshop, working with people from Broadway,” Simon said. “It’s like doing a show on Broadway,” of the one-night performances that are part of the competition.
After getting the Illinois nomination, Gorman said the troupe had to perform May 5 before a panel of professionals where three finalists were selected. The finalists performed before members of the theater industry and the winners were announced.
Along with Simon as best actor and Gorman as best director, Deerfield’s performance of “Crazy for You” earned nominations for choreography, ensemble and production, Gorman said.
Though Simon said he recognizes the competition will be stiffer in New York, he does not intend to alter his preparation.
“I won’t be doing anything different,” Simon said. “What I have to do is stay true to myself. I’m a baritone, not a classic tenor. I have to do the music I know how to do. As I prepare, my attitude will be to put everything into it.”
Simon wants classical musical theater as a career, he said, and will start by pursuing a degree in fine arts at the University of Cincinnati’s College Conservatory of Music in the fall.
“It’s really cool to do classical music theater,” Simon said. “I grew up loving it. I love the singing and the dancing.”
Gorman said Simon acts like a professional. When the rest of the cast might be partying after a show, he is resting his voice so his next performance will be as good as the last.
“He is always focused on the next performance and keeping everything together,” Gorman said. “As a high school student, he has to divide his time between a lot of things, but he knows how to rest his voice for the next day’s performance.”
When he is doing a show, Simon said he focuses on becoming his character. In “Crazy for You,” he had scenes where he had to switch from Bobby Child to Bela Zangler and had little time to think backstage.
“I had to develop two characters, two personalities,” Simon said. “I was too busy pasting on my mustache and graying my hair to think about anything else.”
Steve Sadin is a freelance reporter for Pioneer Press.