By Kerri Jordan
For the past ten years, local high school musical talent has being given the Broadway treatment at the Freddy Awards. Students return Thursday to the State Theatre Center for the Arts in Easton, anxiously waiting to see if they wowed audiences enough to bring home a coveted Freddy.
The Freddy Awards launched in 2003, making the State Theatre the first in the country to produce and broadcast a live show granting awards to high school musicals in Lehigh, Northampton and Warren, NJ counties. Each year it is broadcast live on WFMZ channel 69 from 7 to 10 p.m., with opening and closing performances and the presentation of 21 awards.
“The format of the show worked so well from the beginning there’s no reason to change it,” Jamie Balliet, Senior Vice President, Marketing, said.
The Freddy Awards are named after J “Fred” Osterstock, the legendary “Fred the Ghost” of the State Theatre. He managed the company who owned the theatre from 1936 to 1957. They were created by the theatre’s president and CEO Shelley Brown, who has a background in television, and collaborated with WFMZ and the theatre to make it happen.
A new feature to this year’s awards is a half-hour pre-show hosted by WFMZ Anchor Eve Tannery, which begins at 6:30 p.m. During the pre-show the Student Achievement Award and the Educational Impact Award will be presented, instead of at the conclusion, as it was done in past Freddy Awards.
Shelley Brown, who serves as the evening’s Executive Producer, Jamie Balliet, and Ed Hanna, Chief Meteorologist of WFMZ, will be conducting talking segments as well as live segments from the theatre during the pre-show and throughout the night.
“The day of performance is quite a remarkable, indescribable sense of energy, as if something magical is about to happen,”Balliet said. “There is always a new light of excitement; it’s different every year because it’s a new set of kids.”
Thursday’s show will begin with an opening number performed by four members from each participating high school. A production by the top five musicals presented will follow, and a total of two medleys featuring the lead male and female are sung before the awards ceremony begins.
In the week leading up to the awards, Balliet explained the students work very hard. If they are lucky, they are prepared and ready to go, but there is always something that happens at the last minute.
“Show day is about kids shining and we are here to make that happen,” Balliet, said.
Categories are roughly modeled after the Tonys, with awards for best actor, best actress, choreography, duets, lighting, costume design, performance by an orchestra, and so forth. Awards that are won are delivered to the high schools, and the schools may decide how to display them. Scholarships and awards ranging from $500-$2,500 are bestowed upon budding thespians and those working behind the scenes. Certificates are distributed to each participant in the Freddy’s.
In honor of the 10th anniversary, alumni from past Freddy Awards will conclude the show with a special performance of a combination of traditional and Broadway hits featuring 71 alumni, explained Balliet.
Since the inception of the Freddy Awards, the State Theatre has won two Emmy Awards for the broadcast, in 2005 and 2011, and is the only theatre in the country to do so. The 2008 awards were the subject of a 2010 documentary titled Most Valuable Player and is part of the Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN) documentary film club.
The Freddy Awards will take place Thursday from 6:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. at the State Theatre Center for the Arts, 453 Northampton St., Easton PA. For more information please call the box office 610-252-3132 or for general questions, 610-256-7766. Follow the awards on Facebook at Freddy Awards or through Twitter @statetheatrepa. Watch the show live on WFMZ channel 69, or stream from www.wfmz.com. You can also download the Freddy Award and State Theatre app for info.
Kerri Jordan is a writer in Easton who attended the Freddy Awards in 2004 as a nominee in the stage crew category for How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying.