Rising to the Occasion
Writer Joseph J. Airdo
Photography Courtesy of Musical Theatre of Anthem
Savannah Foy never imagined that she would be honored with a National Youth Arts award when she played Jerusha Abbott in Musical Theatre of Anthem’s production of “Daddy Long Legs” earlier this year. The 17-year-old Anthem resident simply set out to do her best and make her loved ones proud.
“Whenever I am facing something difficult and doubt whether I can overcome it, I remember what amazing people I have been blessed with who love, support and believe in me,” the Anthem Preparatory Academy student says. “They are what inspire me to keep moving forward.”
Foy is just one of several young performers in the Valley recognized in August during the 14th Annual National Youth Arts Awards, which honor outstanding work by youth in the arts.
More than 700 productions in schools and youth arts companies were considered for awards this year. Winners were selected from nominations by a panel of more than 50 judges and reviewers.
Desert Stages Theatre, Greasepaint Theater, TheaterWorks, Scottsdale Community Players Spotlight Youth Theatre, Stagebrush Theatre and Starlight Community Theater were among Arizona’s other performing arts organizations honored with awards by National Youth Arts this year.
Several of the Valley’s schools were also recognized—including Chaparral High School, Desert Mountain High School, Horizon High School, North Valley Arts Academy, Notre Dame Preparatory School, Saguaro High School and Sandra Day O’Conner High School.
Foy, who started performing in shows at Musical Theatre of Anthem about eight years ago, credits her love for and now-recognized aptitude for theater to the organization’s directors and production staff.
“Through performing at Musical Theatre of Anthem, I have had the privilege of working with some of the kindest, most supportive and most influential people,” Foy explains. “Many of its directors and production staff are the people who inspire me to be my best—not only as a performer, but also as a human being. Over the past eight years, they have helped shape me into the person that I am today.”
Foy was not Musical Theatre of Anthem’s only winner. Six more of the organization’s performers and performances received National Youth Arts Awards, including 14-year-old Anthem resident Julia Hughes, who was named Junior Artist of the Year.
The Boulder Creek High School student appeared in four of Musical Theatre of Anthem’s productions this past season, including “Freckleface Strawberry,” “The Giver,” “James and the Giant Peach” and “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown.”
Like Foy, Hughes credits Musical Theatre of Anthem’s directors and production staff with giving her the guidance and support she needed in order to make the National Youth Arts recognition possible.
“Being named … Junior Artist of the Year is such an amazing honor,” Hughes says. “It has motivated me to continue to work hard and improve my craft. I took some steps out of my comfort zone, and it was challenging but very rewarding. I experienced a lot of growth in those times when I struggled with a role or a particular song was too difficult.”
Musical Theatre of Anthem’s other award winners included Alexis Rosenbaum, Kate Creed, Noelle Hammond and Christopher Poulios—all of whom were recognized for their supporting performances in the organization’s productions.
The company’s production of “The Music Man” also received a National Youth Arts award for Outstanding Ensemble.
Musical Theatre of Anthem’s producing artistic director Jackie Hammond appreciates the recognition her organization and its performers received from National Youth Arts but believes that every performer has something to learn and offer.
“At Musical Theatre of Anthem, we train the performers in all aspects of performing arts and run our rehearsals as a professional theater would,” Hammond says. “We set high expectations, and the performers work hard and rise to the occasion.”
Hammond has been involved in theater for the past 30 years. She has worked with children who have gone on to star in Broadway shows, national and international tours and professional theater across the country.
“Whether it is a golden-age musical like ‘The Music Man,’ a contemporary musical such as ‘You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown,’ a musical with comedic characters and quirky roles or an intimate two-person love story like ‘Daddy Long Legs,’ we provide a variety of material where the kids’ abilities are stretched,” Hammond adds.
She says that the performers and performances recognized by National Youth Arts show a wide range of what Musical Theatre of Anthem has to offer. In addition to producing eight to 10 stage productions each season, Musical Theatre of Anthem offers a number of workshops, a summer performing arts institute, an improv troupe and more.
Musical Theatre of Anthem’s shows this season include “Little Mermaid Jr.” Dec. 5–15; “The Wizard of Oz” Feb. 20–March 8; “Children of Eden” April 30–May 3; “Cinderella Kids” May 7–9; and “Annie Jr.” June 8–20.
Hughes believes her experience in the performing arts has not only taught her a great deal, but it has also gifted her with a lot of lifelong friends with whom she has made many treasured memories.
“This award has motivated me to continue to grow in my performance abilities and learn as much as I can from as many different areas as I can,” Hughes says. “I hope to tell a story in my unique way, and hope that it makes even just one person feel the way I feel when I am in the audience.”
Musical Theatre of Anthem
42201 N. 41st Dr., Suite B100, Anthem