(WFRV) – Two northeast Wisconsin high schoolers got to grace the Broadway stage within the past few days and learn the latest about theater from pros during their stay in New York for the 2022 Jimmy Awards.

Green Bay Southwest High School’s Amelia Gibbons and St. Francis Xavier High School’s Josh Thone were chosen to represent the Fox Cities Performing Arts Center (P.A.C.) through its Center Stage High School Musical Theater Program in May.

“So the students who represent the Center Stage program in our region, they get to spend an entire week in New York working with professional broadway coaches, vocal coaches, choreographers and they get to have an opportunity to really see what it’s like to be a Broadway performer,” explained Maria Van Laanen, President and CEO of the P.A.C.

“And they get to perform in the National High School Musical Theater Awards [also known as the Jimmy Awards] on a Broadway stage,” she added.

When the two first found out about going to New York for the awards, Gibbons’ first reaction was awe.

“Mine was, ‘What the?! What?! This is insane!'” she explained. “I always keep using the word surreal because it doesn’t feel real.”

“It’s just such a contrast of a place and being there on a Broadway stage it almost felt casual. So finding out I was going to experience that was such an honor being trusted with that and such a privilege. I was beyond excited,” said Thone.

“This was my first year being able to be a part of the Center Stage program and I’ve kind of grown up in my late-middle school years early high school years seeing social media and people experiencing it and going through that and being in those shoes was so surreal to me,” described Gibbons.

“As cheesy as it sounds, it was absolutely a dream coming true moment,” she said.

“Having that experience with this program was such a privilege to have. To have all these working professionals come and be face to face with me, and I get to ask them questions that I’ve always wanted to know about the industry,” said Thone. “It just was beyond exciting to have that.”

Broadway butterflies

Both students confirmed the award performance was sold out at the Minskoff Theatre in New York.

“Even if we would have been performing for two people in the audience at that Broadway stage, it would have felt the same exact way as it did when there was a sold-out audience,” explained Thone.

“There was a moment where we were backstage beforehand where we just heard a roar, I could not describe it as any other way, a roar of applause and cheers and screams. Then the lights blacked out and everyone went on stage,” described Thone.

“I got these butterflies and we were all looking at each other like, ‘Wow,'” added Gibbons.

For those who were not able to see the show, Thone described it as a review of current Broadway shows.

“The opening number was a big medley of Wicked and Lion King, but also some of the newer shows,” he said.

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Words of wisdom

After experiencing a once-in-a-lifetime chance, both students gave what they think was the best advice they received.

“The one thing that really stuck out to me was ‘Another person’s success is not your loss,'” said Thone.

“A little bit of advice that I really took away was that idea, someone said, ‘Who you are is not what you do,'” added Gibbons. “Success is subjective. To me, at least, if you’re happy, you’re successful.”

“The seeds were planted in New York and now we’re just going to go off and grow into our different communities,” said Thone.

On the P.A.C. website, it shows registration for the 2022-23 Center Stage Season is now open through September 2, 2022, or until the program is full. If you are interested in reading about other students’ experiences in the program, click here.