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Local junior headed to New York for Jimmy Awards

By Heather Graves

GREEN BAY – Many aspiring actors and actresses grace the stages of their high school auditoriums each year – giving their all in hopes of getting noticed.

For one Southwest High School junior, those dreams of recognition have become reality – recently chosen as one of just 92 participants nationwide to be featured in the upcoming Jimmy Awards in New York City.

“It still feels so surreal,” Amelia Gibbons said. “I am so appreciative of everyone who has helped me get to where I am today.”

Jimmy Awards
Gibbons was recently named Best Actress at Center Stage’s showcase held at the Fox Cities Performing Arts Center (PAC) May 7, for her role as Rosie in Southwest’s production of Mamma Mia!

She will join Josh Thone from St. Francis Xavier High School in Appleton, who received the Best Actor recognition, and will represent the Center Stage High School Musical Theater Program in New York next month.

“I am beyond thrilled and honored to be in this position,” Gibbons said. “It is one that I never thought I would be in. I told Josh that I didn’t think it would hit me for another five years. It is so insane.”

Amelia Gibbons

The Center Stage High School Musical Theater Program, an educational initiative of the Fox Cities PAC, celebrates and supports the achievements of high school theater programs in Northeastern Wisconsin.

Presented by The Broadway League Foundation, the Jimmy Awards, also known as The National High School Musical Theatre Awards, invites one Best Actress and one Best Actor nominee from each local regional ceremony to New York City for a week-long theater intensive that includes coaching, training and rehearsing led by some of Broadway’s most-accomplished professionals.

The nominees’ week-long crash course ends with a showcase performed live in front of an audience on a Broadway stage.

During this event, a panel of judges will select two students for the coveted awards of Best Performance by an Actor and Best Performance by an Actress.

Hal Leonard vocal competition
In addition to her recent best actress recognition, Gibbons was selected as the first place winner in the Hal Leonard Vocal Competition, a nationwide singing competition held entirely online.

“Hal Leonard is one of the best-known publishing companies out there, and they hold an online vocal competition every year separated by age,” she said. “I have participated in this competition since 2020 and it has been so much fun. The first year, I placed second in the young voices category. Last year, I received an honorable mention in the high school category.”

Gibbons said singers are required to submit two pieces of contrasting tempos – with her two selections being “With You” from “Ghost: The Musical” and “Astonishing” from “Little Women.”

“It’s a great way to learn a variety of new music and to challenge yourself,” she said. “It is such an honor to receive first place in this competition.”

From a young age
The 17-year-old De Pere resident, who lives with her parents, an older sister, an older brother, a younger brother, a cat and the two “cutest dogs you’ve ever seen,” said she’s been on some type of stage since she was six.

“My arts experience started with tap dancing and ballet through a class with the Green Bay Parks and Recreation Department,” Gibbons said. “Then, my parents heard me singing around the house and put me in classes at Birder Studio of Performing Arts when I was 6. I quickly fell in love with the performing arts. My first musical was Beauty and the Beast, and I have loved it ever since.”

Transferring just this year, Mamma Mia! was her first performance on Southwest’s stage, but it isn’t her first high school performance.

“During my freshman and sophomore years, I went to West De Pere High School where I was in productions such as ‘Freaky Friday,’ ‘Be More Chill’ and ‘Puffs,’” Gibbons said. “I have participated with numerous companies such as Next Stage, Birder Studio, Birder Players, Evergreen Productions and Calvary Players.”

She said her favorite show she’s done was St. Norbert’s Next Stage’s portrayal of “The Spongebob Musical,” where she played Pearl Krabs.

“Some of my other favorite roles include Tracy Turnblad (Hairspray Jr.), Princess Fiona (Shrek The Musical) and Ursula (The Little Mermaid),” Gibbons said. “I hope to participate in more community productions as well, whenever the opportunities present themselves.”

She said she also sings monthly with John Kelly and the Fusion Express at Angelina’s restaurant in Green Bay.

“Outside of theater, I enjoy songwriting on the piano, ukulele and guitar and arts and crafts,” Gibbons said.

She said her favorite thing about the arts is “the skill of connection.”

“The performers connect with each other, with the audience, with the characters they are performing as, and especially within themselves,” Gibbons said. “It is truly astonishing the impact that performance can have on people.”

The future
What lies ahead, Gibbons said, is “still up in the air.”

“But, I am planning on participating in Southwest’s musical (yet to be announced),” she said. “This upcoming summer, I am planning to audition for Next Stage’s production of “Anastasia.”

Gibbons said as she looks to college, a degree in musical theater is definitely on her mind.

“Doing my passion for my career in some way is the ultimate goal – whether that is touring, getting paid for regional productions or all the way to the big leagues on Broadway, if I am doing what I love I don’t care what the context is,” she said. “So this coming year I will be spending quite some time applying for different colleges and such. Outside of theater, however, I also have an interest in Spanish education and special education, so if I can squeeze those into my career path in some way that would be awesome.”

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