Two students from Ogden are ecstatic and heading to the Big Apple after winning best actor and best actress Saturday at the Utah High School Musical Theater Awards in Logan.
St. Joseph High School senior Taylor Nefcy won best actress for her portrayal of the feisty Babe in "The Pajama Game," and Legacy Preparatory Academy senior Aaron Wilcox won best actor for playing Tevye in "Fiddler on the Roof."
The event was at Utah State University and is sponsored by Utah Festival Opera & Musical Theatre, which will now send Nefcy and Wilcox to New York City in June to participate in the National High School Musical Theater Awards.
Nefcy was still in a state of shock and elation during a telephone interview Tuesday with the Standard-Examiner.
"I cried and burst into tears," she said of the ceremony when her name was called out. "Everyone instantly rose, stood up on their feet and they were screaming. I had to walk to the podium and accept the trophy from Vanessa Ballam (UFOMT conservatory director) and then I had to give a speech. It was incredible, just so incredible! There was so much love, it was amazing."
Wilcox said he was equally astounded by the announcement at what was billed as the high school version of the Tony Awards.
"It was just kind of a shock," Wilcox said. "I really didn't know what was going on, and I didn't really expect it. It was a surprise on a lot of levels."
The event was an opportunity for musical theater students across the state to meet and see each other's work. In between award announcements, students performed selections from their schools' shows.
"To see what all the other schools were working on, it was so cool and just amazing," Nefcy said, noting she was particularly impressed with Wilcox's performance. "He did a song from 'Fiddler on the Roof' and it was just amazing. It was incredible to watch him."
Playing the iconic role of Tevye, a poor, middle-aged milkman with five daughters, is a challenge for any high school student, but Wilcox relished the role.
"For me, I like to perform as an older person," Wilcox said. "It's always been an enjoyment for me."
Tevye goes through a range of emotions in the show -- from joy and elation to anger, frustration and sorrow. Wilcox said he was able to draw on his own life experiences to bring believability to his performance.
"I've have had some pretty dramatic experience in my life already," Wilcox said. "Three years ago, my father passed away, so I can tie that emotion into different things Tevye would have."
The ceremony was bittersweet for Wilcox, who said he wished his dad, O'Neal Wilcox, had been there to see him at such a crossroads, but he was grateful his mother, Sarah Wilcox, was there to share in his achievment.
Nefcy's parents are Brian and Christine Nefcy. Her mom and two siblings were at the ceremony, and her mom filmed the whole thing. Nefcy said the video is quite funny -- the camera starts shaking because her mother is screaming with joy when her name was announced.
"I can't even describe how amazing I've felt the last few days," Nefcy said. "I still don't think I can really feel my legs."
In New York City, the duo will participate in rehearsals and master classes, receive one-on-one coaching from theater professionals, be seen by casting agents, and meet and interact with Broadway actors.
Their trip will culminate in a live awards show hosted by Broadway veterans and television personalities, featuring the presentation of the Jimmy Award for Best Performance by an Actress and Best Performance by an Actor.
Nefcy and Wilcox will also perform during their time in Manhattan. Nefcy is planning to sing two songs from "The Pajama Game" -- "Hey There" and "I'm Not at All in Love" -- as well as two other songs still to be determined. Wilcox said he will perform "If I Were a Rich Man" and the "Chaveleh" sequence, along with two other numbers.
"Professionals are going to work with us and help us make our song the best they can be," Nefcy said.
Neither Nefcy or Wilcox have been to New York City before.
"When you're not doing the workshop, you get to walk around New York City," Nefcy said. "Oh my gosh, I can't wait! You get to go see shows on Broadway."
Both said they appreciate how this experience could affect the course of their lives. They will be competing with students from across the nation for the Jimmy Award. Each year, two grand prize winners are selected by a panel of industry experts. Prizes and scholarships come with the awards.
Although Wilcox was planning to pursue a career as a teacher in musical theater, he said being a performer would also be a lot of fun and he's taking a wait-and-see approach.
Nefcy will be attending Aquinas College in Grand Rapids, Mich., this fall, where she was planning to major in veterinary science and minor in musical theater or music. However, Saturday night's events and her experience in New York City could alter those plans.
"We'll just see what happens," she said. "I'm just so excited to work with people and really see what the business is all about. It's going to be an amazing experience."
Top of Utah schools did well at the Utah High School Musical Theater Awards last weekend.
- St. Joseph High School, a private Catholic school in Ogden, won for best set design and best actress (senior Taylor Nefcy) for "The Pajama Game."
- Legacy Preparatory Academy, a charter school in Woods Cross, was recognized with nominations for its production of "Fiddler on the Roof," with Ogden's Aaron Wilcox taking home the best actor trophy.
- Logan High School student Lauren Sidwell won best supporting actress for her portrayal of Martha in "White Christmas."
- Bountiful High School won best choreography for its production of "Crazy for You."
- Box Elder High School won best lighting for its production of "The Phantom of the Opera."