Winners of Illinois High School Musical Theatre Awards on road to Jimmy Awards, Broadway

ByHosea Sanders and Marsha Jordan WLS logo
Tuesday, May 23, 2023
High school theater award-winners on road to Broadway
Talented students are preparing for the Jimmy Awards after Illinois High School Musical Theatre Awards, put on by Broadway in Chicago.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Gifted teenagers from all over the state just took center stage for the Illinois High School Musical Theatre Awards.

Next stop is Broadway for the winners! ABC7's Hosea Sanders spoke with to the students who brought the house down on Monday night.

Theatre kids from 70 schools took part in the Broadway in Chicago event. The Illinois High School Musical Theatre Awards program gives them a chance to compete and nurture their talent.

"A lot of them, this is their start to Broadway. We have a lot of alum who are on Broadway, have toured Broadway, so for a lot of them, it starts here," said IHSMTA Program Director Lauren Gutierrez-Robinson.

Two winners move on to New York and the Jimmy Awards. They work with seasoned professionals, preparing for the showcase on Broadway, and maybe, the top honor.

"My first role was in 'Beauty & the Beast' when I was in middle school, and as soon as I stepped up on the stage, I knew that's where I wanted to be," said Mundelein High School student Will Gonzalez, who won the "Best Performer in an Actor Role" award.

Will's parents also weighed in.

"I love seeing him do what he loves, and I love seeing the audience react to him," said Kelly Gonzalez, Will's mom.

"He always had a microphone in hand and hamming it up for the camera. Once he got on stage and got a taste of it, that's all he wanted to do," said Hector Gonzalez, Will's dad.

Payton Fraser, who goes to Joliet West High School, won the "Best Performer in an Actress Role" award.

Sanders asked her what she thinks that means for her future.

"I have no idea, but out of all of this it just solidified how much I want to do this for the rest of my life," Payton said.

Payton's parents are excited for her, too.

"The singing around the house is a gift every day," said Brent Fraser, Payton's dad.

"This child wanted to do this so bad, and she did it!" said Michelle Fraser, Payton's mom.

ABC7 will be speaking more with those winners as they get ready for the big Jimmy Awards, taking on finalists from all over the nation next month.