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Utah student wins best actor and $25,000 at the National High School Musical Theatre Awards in New York

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Cristy Meiners

SALT LAKE CITY — Each year, the best high school musical theater students in the nation gather in New York City and make their Broadway debuts as part of the Jimmy Awards. On Monday night, Utah student Ethan Kelso walked away with $25,000 for one of the night's top awards: best performance by an actor.

Held this year at Broadway's Minskoff Theatre, the annual Jimmy Awards, now in its 11th year, recognizes talented students from around the country in vocals, dance and acting performance and is supported by the Broadway League Foundation.

Kelso, a student at the Salt Lake School for the Performing Arts, is from Logan. His win for best actor at the 2019 Utah High School Musical Theatre Awards for his role as Will Bloom in “Big Fish” gave him the chance to compete at the Jimmys, also known as the National High School Musical Theatre Awards. The Jimmy Awards included a week of coaching and rehearsals with Broadway professionals before students performed Monday night for a panel of judges who selected the nation’s top performers.

Tony Award winner Ben Platt hosted Monday's ceremony, which featured performances of Broadway medleys and mashups, a tribute to "Wicked" and solo performances from competitors. Kelso, who has a deep, powerful voice, performed “Wondering" from “The Bridges of Madison County” and performed in several ensemble pieces as part of the awards ceremony showcase.

Joining Kelso in wining the Jimmys' top awards was Ekele Ukegbu from Long Island, New York, who won for best performance by an actress. The two students were part of a group of 86 nominees who competed in the Jimmy Awards.

The two winners will perform at BroadwayCon next year, and, if past Jimmy Award winners are an indication, can expect to be cast in Broadway, West End or touring productions.