Two winners were announced at the conclusion of The Discovery Awards May 24 at the Tulsa Performing Arts Center. The award for Best Female Performer went to Axyl Langford, a sophomore at Owasso High School, and the award for Best Male Performer went to J. J. Willis, also a sophomore at Owasso High School. The Discovery Awards is a special regional program highlighting and awarding excellence in Eastern Oklahoma high school musical theatre.
Langford and Willis will be the first Oklahomans to compete nationally in New York City at the Jimmy Awards, otherwise known as The National High School Musical Theatre Awards in June.
Langford has been involved in theatre and vocal performances throughout the Tulsa area for nine years. While completing her sophomore year at Owasso High School, Langford was thrilled to be cast as Katherine Blake in Freaky Friday. She was excited this dream role was her first performance on the high school stage. Langford is honored to have been cast in several of her favorite roles which include: Grizabella (CATS), Velma Von Tussle (Hairspray), Patrice (13), Narrator (Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat), Lottie (A Little Princess), Belle (A Christmas Carol), Scar (Lion King Jr.), Fantine (Les Misérables Student Edition), Paula Abagnale (Catch Me If You Can), and Veruca Salt (Willy Wonka). At the age of 12, Langford had the privilege of singing the duet “For Good” with Kristin Chenoweth in concert, which is featured on the album, “Kristin Chenoweth: Coming Home.” Langford would like to thank everyone who has supported her theatre journey as she works toward her dream of performing on Broadway. She is grateful and humbled for her nomination for The Discovery Awards.
Willis has been performing on stage since elementary school. Whether it’s a choir performance, a school play, or a community theatre musical, he always does his best to find a way to do what he loves. He was lucky enough to be given the opportunity to portray Adam in Freaky Friday with Owasso High School this spring. This was his third musical theatre performance, and his 14th total production in his career. Some of his favorite roles include Orin Scrivello in Clark Youth Theatre’s Little Shop of Horrors, and Jay Gatsby and the Stage Manager in Owasso High School’s productions of The Great Gatsby and Our Town respectively. He recently had the privilege to perform with the Choirs of America in their concert at Carnegie Hall in New York City. Willis would like to thank all of his friends, family, coworkers, and directors who have led him to this point in his career. He is honored to have been selected to represent Owasso at this year’s The Discovery Awards.
Additional award winners include Liz Hunt, teacher at Riverfield Country Day School, for Best Direction; Christina Jenkins, teacher at Union High School, for Best Choreography, and Owasso High School received Best Ensemble for their production of Freaky Friday, the Musical.
Presented by Celebrity Attractions and the Tulsa Performing Arts Center, the inaugural The Discovery Awards showcase event was co-hosted by Mark Frie, director of the Tulsa Performing Arts Center, and LeAnne Taylor, KOTV News On 6 TV anchor, directed by Tony Award-winner and Drama Desk Award-winner Faith Prince and choreographed by Tony Award-nominee and Outer Critics Circle Award-winner Lara Teeter.
With a week-long rehearsal process, all the student nominees worked one-on-one with Prince and Teeter, who decided on several special awards. Those awards went to Cassell White, a senior at Memorial High School, for Most Improved; Brit Horton, a senior at Memorial High School, for Most Curious; Isabel Agadagba, a junior at Union High School, for Most Spirited; and Mikaela Bonilla, a sophomore at Edison Preparatory High School, for Old Soul.
About the Jimmy Awards
The Jimmy Awards/The National High School Musical Theatre Awards (NHSMTA) program impacts more than 100,000 students who participate in high school musical theatre competitions sponsored by presenters of Touring Broadway productions throughout the United States. Presented by the Broadway League Foundation, the program sends a Best Actress and Best Actor winner from each of these competitions to New York for a theatre intensive week of coaching and rehearsals with industry professionals in preparation for a one-night-only talent showcase on Broadway. Named for Broadway impresario James M. Nederlander, the program has been the catalyst for more than $2,000,000 in educational scholarships. The eleventh annual Jimmy Awards will take place at a date to be announced in the future.
Kudos also to Celebrity Attractions and the Tulsa Performing Arts Center for their participation.