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'Blumey's' Recognize Region's High School Musical Talent

Kyle Conroy plays Seymour in Jay M. Robinson High School's production of "Little Shop of Horrors." He won best actor in the

Charlotte held its inaugural Tony-style awards ceremony for high school students at a black-tie gala that drew about 2,100 people to the Belk Theater on Sunday. The 2012 Blumenthal Performing Arts High School Musical Theater Awards ceremony honored young entertainers in 13 categories and awarded $10,000 scholarships to two students and a free trip to New York to another. With the addition of the Blumeys, Charlotte joins more than 30 cities offering a high-school version of the Tonys. "I am just so proud (of the nominees)," said Ralph Beck, director of education for the Blumenthal. "The quality and involvement heightens musical theater participation because of this." Beck said he wanted to start an awards ceremony in Charlotte after he attended the National High School Musical Theater Awards, known as the Jimmys, in New York City in 2010. "I left the theater feeling rejuvenated, and I knew at that point we needed something like that in Charlotte," he said. Belmont South Point High School won the award for its production of "Jekyll & Hyde," while Jay M. Robinson High School student Kyle Conroy won best actor for his performance as Seymour in the school's production of "Little Shop of Horrors" and Cuthbertson High School student Taylor Neal won best actress as Belle in "Beauty and the Beast." The night featured performances from each of the six finalists for the Wells Fargo Best Musical Award and performances by the finalists for best actor and best actress. Anchor for WBTV, Maureen O'Boyle, emceed the event. David Dabbon of New York- directed the awards ceremony and led an orchestra of area professionals. Nominees were chosen after judges attended productions at 20 schools from the 16-county region the Blumenthal serves. "I so want the community to know why this is important," said Liza Veilleux, a senior at South Mecklenburg High. "It's all about being uniquely who you are on stage." Veilleux, nominated for best actress, said the performance is beneficial for high schools because it allows theater students to learn from one another. Will Branner, a senior at Charlotte Latin who was nominated for best actor, said, "This is a breakthrough for Charlotte. This is the first time we can showcase our talents together." Best actor and actress finalists performed specially written medleys Sunday night that included musical numbers from their shows. Participating schools also nominated two students to perform in the awards ceremony's opening and closing numbers. Students nominated for best supporting actor and best supporting actress also participated. Of the performers, Bethany Kinect, a senior at Charlotte Christian School, and Lexie Wolfe, a senior at Northwest School of the Arts, each won $10,000 college scholarships, renewable annually, from the Doctor Family Foundation. Taylor Neal, named best actress, and Kyle Conroy, best actor, will perform at the National High School Musical Theater Awards in June, during a one-week, all-expenses-paid trip to New York.