Stars Rise at Georgia’s High School Musical Awards

Tony-style ceremony pegs the Broadway bound

The hit TV show “Glee” has its show choir regionals, and Georgia high schools have their Shuler Hensleys—aka the Georgia High School Musical Theater Awards. The Tony-style ceremony will be performed at the Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre on April 17. (WSB-TV 2.2, Me-TV, hopes to do a live broadcast but, at press time, was still negotiating music rights.)

Hensley, who is currently starring in the Alliance Theatre’s production “Ghost Brothers of Darkland County,” is a Tony Award–winning Broadway actor and Atlanta native. At the Westminster Schools, he played baseball, football, and basketball—while singing in musical ensembles. (Gleeks, think Finn Hudson.) Hensley, now forty-five, went to the University of Georgia on a baseball scholarship but left his sophomore year to study voice at the Manhattan School of Music.

“I get more out of it than anyone,” he says. “There’s something about that age, where you really feel the power and the magic of theater and the arts. You really see it on these kids’ faces.”

When the series debuted in 2009, only fifteen Atlanta schools participated. This year the program went statewide, with more than forty schools applying. Judges attended their performances to select finalists. Winners were chosen in fifteen categories, from leading actor to costume design to overall production—with top actors going on to the National High School Musical Theater Awards in June. Participants who are seniors can also apply for scholarships ranging up to $1,000.

West Forsyth High School performing “Oklahoma!”; photograph by Edward Zeltser Photography