Chandler actress in running for Jimmy Award - SanTan Sun News SanTan Sun News

Chandler actress in running for Jimmy Award

July 8th, 2021 development
Chandler actress in running for Jimmy Award

By Ashlyn Robinette
Staff Writer

A Chandler performer won the ASU Gammage High School Musical Theatre Awards and is now nominated for best actress at the National High School Musical Theatre Awards – otherwise known as The Jimmy Awards.

Kristiana Corona, a recent Hamilton High School graduate, was awarded Best Lead Female for her performance of Ellie Blake in “Freaky Friday” by the seventh annual ASU Gammage HSMTA, which took place in a hybrid, live-streamed format.

Now, she hopes to win best actress at the 12th Jimmy Awards, which will be streamed July 15 at 7:30 p.m.

“It’s a crazy competition,” Corona said. “All the kids that are up for the awards are the best of the best. It’s been fun so far and I’m excited to see what happens.”

The ASU Gammage program is a regional component of the NHSMTA and recognizes and celebrates Valley high school students and faculty that produce musical theatre programs, according to its website.

Schools compete in 14 performance and tech categories. Along with receiving a cash award of $500, the best lead male and female winners continue to the NHSMTA where they compete with students across the country for grand scholarships.

“In a typical year, we have 25 schools competing with 10 finalists in each category,” said Desiree Ong, ASU Gammage Education Program Manager.

“This year, we had 14 schools competing, as well as the nominations from non-participating Title I high schools, with five finalists in each category.”

Winners of the ASU Gammage HSMTA are chosen through a process by ASU’s 15 adjudicators who use the same criteria as the NHSMTA: singing, acting and dancing, Ong said.

Semifinalists from participating high schools are chosen based on their show scores while semifinalists from non-participating Title I high schools are selected based on auditions. Title I schools serve generally poverty-level households.

All semifinalists audition again for the panel of adjudicators.

Finalists are chosen and the winners are announced on the night of the ceremony.

“The moment of hearing my name being called is so ingrained in me,” Corona said. “I had been repeating my name in my head over and over again, hoping they would say it.

“So, when they actually did I thought that I had imagined it. Then, everyone was cheering, a confetti cannon went off and balloons came down. It felt like everything I had worked for paid off.”

Tyler Baldwin, a recent Queen Creek High School graduate, was awarded Best Lead Male for his performance of Jack Kelly in “Newsies” by the ASU Gammage HSMTA and joins Corona in the NHSMTA competition as a best actor nominee.

The NHSMTA was established in 2009 by Nederlander Alliances and Pittsburgh CLO to “elevate the importance of theatre arts education in schools and reward excellence in student performance,” according to the association’s website.

The program impacts over 140,000 students annually who participate in high school musical theatre competitions that are sponsored by over 40 professional theatres across the country.

“The Jimmy Awards are huge for the theatre community,” Corona said. “It’s the highest accolade that you can get.”

Presented by the Broadway League Foundation, the NHSMTA program has been the catalyst for more than $4 million in educational scholarships to date and several previous student participants have been cast in Broadway, Touring and West End productions.

The Jimmy Awards were named for Broadway impresario James M. Nederlander – or “Jimmy” as the theatrical community knew him.

The NHSMTA shifted to a virtual format due to the pandemic but that’s an upgrade from last year, when The Jimmy Awards were canceled. Instead of traveling to New York City though, this year’s 72 nominees from 36 regions from across the U.S. are participating virtually.

Love for musical theatre must be in the air for Chandler students as the 2019 winners of the ASU Gammage HSMTA who moved on as nominees for The Jimmy Awards were Sophia Donnell, of Hamilton High School, and Casey Likes, of Chandler High School.

It was around the age of seven when Corona’s passion for musical theatre was born. Her parents signed her up for a Chandler Center for the Arts musical theatre summer camp, which she continued for four years.

“It sparked something in me,” Corona said. “I loved it and it only grew from there.”

Corona plans to continue her musical theatre journey by attending Kent State University in Ohio to study musical theatre. Then, she hopes to go into professional theatre like Broadway.

“Performing allows me to open myself up to new experiences that I wouldn’t have had just by living a normal life,” Corona said. “I get to live through characters.”

To watch The Jimmy Awards, hosted by Corbin Bleu, virtually on July 15 go to