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Mira Costa drama students sweep up at Jerry Herman Awards

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Mira Costa's Peter Pan cast at the Pantages. Photo courtesy of Randolph Sena

Mira Costa’s Peter Pan cast at the Pantages. Photo courtesy of Randolph Sena

Mira Costa High School’s drama department claimed the best musical title for its staging of “Peter Pan” at the annual Jerry Herman Awards show June 1 at the Pantages Theater in Hollywood.

The Jerry Herman Awards recognize high school drama departments in Southern California. Guest judges and presenters included Tony Award-winning actor Ben Vereen, “Peter Pan” cast member Cathy Rigby and Academy Award-winning actress Shirley Jones.

Mira Costa’s drama department also won best ensemble/chorus, best musical direction, best vocal direction and best lighting design. The cast of “Peter Pan” took home an Audience Choice award for performance of the night after performing a musical number as one of four schools to perform during the awards show.

Mira Costa junior Julia McDermott and senior Paxton Wright received nominations for best actress and best actor.

“I’d say I was pretty excited to find out I was going to perform on the Pantages,” Wright said. “I mean, it’s the Pantages … and you’d be an idiot not to be a little giddy.”

The week leading up to the awards show, Wright and McDermott each auditioned for nominations. The panel of judges included Rigby and pianist Brad Ellis of Fox TV’s “Glee.” Both students were given the opportunity to perform in a Broadway show if they finished as the primary finalist for best actor and actress.

To prepare for the performance, McDermott and Wright rehearsed with 32 school finalists. They learned a medley of several Jerry Herman songs and on June 1 they all got to stage it at the Pantages.

Later that day, McDermott was announced as one of the three finalists for best actress. As a reward, McDermott got to perform a solo of “Neverland” from “Peter Pan.”

“It was very cool and exhilarating because when I came out to do my solo it was like, ‘I am doing something that I want to do for the rest of my life,’” McDermott said. “I wasn’t even thinking of winning because all we wanted to do was perform.”

For the past few months, Mira Costa has been using “Peter Pan” to showcase its students’ talents at numerous competitions, but the Jerry Herman Awards were the last time that the magic of Neverland was to be revealed.

“It’s really weird not having to put on that costume again because I’ll miss it, but also I need to move on,” McDermott said with a laugh.


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