Meet the Lead Performer Nominees: Bobby G Awards

The Bobby G Awards is a regional high school musical theatre awards ceremony that celebrates educators and students from all over Colorado. The event will take place on Thursday, May 18 at 7:00p.m. in the Ellie Caulkins Opera House.

Let’s take a closer look at the Outstanding Lead Performer nominees. Two winners will advance to represent Colorado at The Jimmy Awards® in New York City.

Blythe Lockwood

Blythe Lockwood

Role: Alice Murphy
Production: Bright Star
School: Arvada West High School

Blythe Lockwood invests her heart and soul into her craft. As a senior at Arvada West High School, she’s been in her school’s theatre company since the beginning of her freshman year. And yet, each audition, rehearsal, and performance was an emotional roller coaster. “Before every performance of Bright Star, there would be a second when the house lights went down and everyone looked at each other as if saying, ‘here we go,’ and from there we were off,” she said.

Lockwood portrayed Alice Murphy in Bright Star, a story of love, loss, and family set in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina. “We see Alice during two points of her life in which she faced unimaginable challenges,” Lockwood explained. But the depth of Alice’s character helped Lockwood really dig in. She shared, “I hold her story very near and dear to my heart in my own ways.”

The Arvada West theatre company is family to Lockwood. After her freshman year, she knew she had found the perfect home to harbor her passion. The support and guidance she felt in creating her interpretation of Alice allowed her to find the intention behind each line, breath, and movement. During the rehearsal process, “watching all the parts of the puzzle from the very start come together and make a beautiful picture at the end was truly inspiring,” Lockwood shared.

Lockwood will head to New York City this fall and chase her Broadway dreams. Her drive and passion will carry her through the fear of a new start; she said, “For me, I will never stop pursuing and fighting for theatre.”

Evan McKercher. Photo by Fiona Davia

Evan McKercher

Role: J. Pierrepont Finch
Production: How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying
School: Erie High School

While Evan McKercher had performed as a lead in other community theatre company productions, this was his first time landing one in a school production. His previous leading roles prepared him for this moment, noting that those experiences taught him a lot. McKercher portrayed the ambitious J. Pierrepont Finch in How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying. It’s a story of a young man who works the corporate ladder, rising from window washer to chairman of the board – all due to an instructional book.

How to Succeed… is a crowd pleaser, but McKercher wasn’t worried about living up to the hype. “I was not nervous because I knew that everyone watching the show would love it,” he explained. “My favorite show specific memory was performing the song ‘Rosemary’ for the first time because the crowd loved it, and it was a very rewarding experience.”

Something that helped McKercher truly become his character were the costumes. “My favorite part of the rehearsal process was definitely during tech and dress week when we started to incorporate costumes into our runs of the show,” he said. Being in costume allowed McKercher to develop his character further and step into J. Pierrepont Finch’s shoes – literally.

As a junior, McKercher has one more year of theatre and choir at Erie High School. After graduating in 2024, McKercher is thinking he might pursue filmmaking, one of his passions outside the performing arts.

Camille Nugent. Photo by Seth Pickett

Camille Nugent

Role: Alice Murphy
Production: Bright Star
School: Fossil Ridge High School

Camille Nugent wondered what she got herself into while auditioning for Bright Star. “I do have to admit that when I discovered Bright Star was based in the Bluegrass genre, my enthusiasm faltered just a bit,” she revealed. “Images of the Old South kept popping into my head including a particularly amusing vision of me yodeling in a cowgirl hat.” But Nugent wasn’t going to miss her senior musical – banjos and all.

Nugent is partial to character research and development, something the character Alice Murphy encourages in spades. As a teenager, Alice endures tremendous loss, which alters the course of her life.

The challenge of portraying Alice was replicating life experiences Nugent had never experienced herself, like motherhood. In the process of developing her character, Nugent has matured her skill. “I like to think I’ve begun to hone the ability to put myself in imaginary circumstances and live them authentically,” she said – exactly what acting is all about.

Nugent’s close relationship with Alice allowed her to feel liberated onstage. During the closing performance, she received a standing ovation as she sang “At Last” for the final time. “When I suddenly heard applause, I was shocked by the volume – but more so by seeing each and every face in the audience,” she shared. “I remember drinking in each expression with the overwhelming sense of ‘It worked! They get it!’”

This fall, Nugent will attend her dream school, Carnegie Mellon, to pursue a BFA in Musical Theatre. New beginnings can be intimidating, but as Nugent says, “As long as I have this art and stay just a little crazy along the way, I think it will be okay. Here’s to the unexpected!”

Cooper Hand. Photo by Seth Pickett

Cooper Hand

Role: Billy Cane
Production: Bright Star
School: Fossil Ridge High School

There was a moment when Cooper Hand stepped onstage with a new realization. “For the first time, I fully realized that there was an audience right there, sharing the story with me,” he shared. “I realized how much power I held in that moment. If I didn’t give a good enough performance, would they still feel the impact? Would all of my hard work pay off?” That single moment gave him a newfound appreciation for the opportunity to share stories and connect with audiences in such an intimate way.

Hand portrayed Billy Cane in Fossil Ridge’s production of Bright Star. Billy has returned home from World War II with dreams of becoming a writer. “After witnessing the tragedies of the war and his mother’s passing, he realizes how precious life is,” Hand explained. It’s a story that teaches us how love can endure even the most difficult of obstacles.

Bright Star’s music holds a special place in Hand’s heart. He decided to audition from the moment he listened to the Broadway cast album. “As I listened to it for the first time, I got to experience the story of Alice Murphy’s life as any audience member would. It made me excited to be a part of a musical unlike any other show I have been a part of,” he said.

As a junior this year, Hand has one more year of theatre at Fossil Ridge. He’s looking forward to participating in all of the theatre and choir opportunities next year may hold.

Rebekah Jacobs

Rebekah Jacobs

Role: Ella
Production: Cinderella (Broadway Version)
School: Lutheran High School

Rebekah Jacobs wanted to do more than share a story everyone knows. Cinderella, or Ella, is a familiar character to most everyone, but Jacobs wanted audiences to take a deeper look. “Ella is a shy dreamer who grows to become confident and sees her dreams come true,” Jacobs said. “I just think the story of Cinderella has a beautiful message to teach all of us about kindness.”

Jacobs had been featured in a leading role many times before, but Ella felt special. “I really wanted to portray her honestly and bring more depth to a stereotypical fairytale princess,” she explained. Her efforts resulted in one of the most memorable theatrical experiences Jacobs has ever had. A contributing factor was meeting little girls in the community who came to see the production and were thrilled to meet such a fascinating princess, some of whom were dressed as the titular princess themselves.

There’s also a special place in Jacobs’ heart for the other performers in Cinderella and the theatre community at Lutheran High School. “I really enjoyed being able to be with the cast and working together to create this show,” she said.

After one more year of theatre at Lutheran High School, Jacobs hopes to pursue a career in the medical field. In her coming senior year of high school, Jacobs said, “I am looking forward to being able to encourage the younger theater students in their gifts and striving to be a Christ-like leader by serving and building up others any chance I get.”

Connor O’Brian

Connor O’Brian

Role: Shakespeare
Production: Something Rotten
School: Lakewood High School

Connor O’Brian couldn’t have asked for a better musical to end his high school theatre career. Something Rotten tells the story of two brothers as they attempt to make a name for themselves in the shadow of William Shakespeare. “Something Rotten was such a gift to be a part of,” O’Brian shared.

In fact, O’Brian really became Shakespeare. Having performed in the ensemble before but never as the lead in a show, O’Brian took his newfound responsibility very seriously. “I practically didn’t have a life outside of school and the musical,” he confessed. “Although time-consuming, this work as a lead was also thrilling. I was able to embrace bold acting choices, build confidence in my voice, and adopt the colossal persona of William Shakespeare. Much to the irritation of my teachers, this persona would often leak into my school life as well.”

Many rehearsals were devoted to learning how to tap dance – a favorite memory of O’Brian’s “Filled with ample laughter, tears, and considerable bruises, the dance rehearsals were unforgettable,” he said. Though it isn’t likely Shakespeare knew how to tap dance in the 1500’s.

Lakewood’s theatre company has been O’Brian’s second home since his freshman year, surrounded by encouragement and inspiration. He will never forget the lasting impact of theatre director, Tami LoSasso, as she leaves Lakewood High School this year.

After graduating this spring, O’Brian will be majoring in Musical Theatre at the University of Northern Colorado. “As a little Shakespearean voice in my head once told me: Life is a shuttle, and you should make the most of it,” O’Brian said.

Juliette Molina

Juliette Molina

Role: Belle
Production: Disney’s Beauty and the Beast
School: Niwot High School

Beauty and the Beast is a nostalgic story for many, and Juliette Molina’s connection with Belle felt like coming home. As a performer for most of her life, Molina had performed in two previous productions of the story – including once before as Belle. “It was no question for me that I wanted to return to the show and the role,” she said. “Belle is one of those characters I could play a million times over and never get tired of.” That may be due to Molina’s personal similarities to Belle: “Her resilience, her love of books, and her feelings of never belonging all resonated deeply with me.”

Disney’s Beauty and the Beast follows Belle, a young woman longing for adventure, as she takes her father’s place as prisoner to a cruel Beast. “Slowly, she and the Beast fall in love as they learn to understand one another and those around them,” Molina said.

Over the course of the pandemic, Molina took time to focus on her training while live theatre wasn’t happening. “Returning to the stage with new skills brough a much deeper and more nuanced experience,” she said. Even racked with an illness during her performances, Molina saw it as an opportunity to test her limits as a performer. “It brought me out of a perfectionist mindset and allowed me to truly focus on the human body and its incredible resilience.”

Molina has one more year at Niwot High School, though she can’t wait to begin auditioning for collegiate programs next year. After graduating in 2024, she hopes to study Musical Theatre and Vocal Pedagogy.

Ethan Hoover

Ethan Hoover

Role: Nick Bottom
Production: Something Rotten
School: Lakewood High School

Ethan Hoover is as much a comedian as he is an actor. Finding the levity and the laughter during a performance is what brings Hoover joy. “After rehearsing a show for two months, nobody really laughs anymore,” he said. But during the performances, “every laugh just made me so excited to give more.”

Hoover portrayed Nick Bottom in Lakewood’s production of Something Rotten, one of two brothers fighting for recognition in the wake of Shakespeare’s fame. “I end up making a fool of myself, but learn to appreciate my brother,” Hoover explained. “While the show is hilarious, the heart of this story comes from the growth between the two brothers.”

One of Hoover’s signature moments was creating his own choreography for pieces of the show. “My personal favorite was during the song ‘Make an Omelette’ where I chose to flap like a chicken while doing fake ballet,” he said. The dance moves were certainly impactful, invoking cackles and giggles from the audience.

Hoover’s role as Nick Bottom was a new experience, as he had never before performed as a lead in a musical. Bobby G Awards attendees might recognize Hoover after his supporting performance in Lakewood’s Anastasia, which was nominated for Outstanding Overall Production in 2022. “My characters in theatre have grown and I really love that progression,” he said. It’s given him the space to learn and develop his skill over time.

Hoover recently accepted admission to Loyola Marymount University, where he will begin taking acting classes and voice lessons in the fall.

Georgia Lawrence

Georgia Lawrence

Role: Ariel
Production: Disney’s The Little Mermaid
School: Palmer Ridge High School

Here she is again – two-time Lead Performer nominee, Georgia Lawrence. In 2022, Lawrence was nominated for her role as Lady Larkin in Once Upon a Mattress. This year, Lawrence was “blessed” to play Ariel in Disney’s The Little Mermaid.

The Little Mermaid is a classic, nostalgic story. Ariel, a mermaid princess, longs to be a part of the human world. After exchanging her voice for legs, Ariel attempts to convince Prince Eric to fall in love with her in order to stay human. “Ariel learns how to be strong and stand up for what she believes in while also being open minded to the words of those around her,” Lawrence said.

Even though Ariel is well-known, Lawrence was determined to challenge audiences’ preconceived notions. “I really let my creativity fly so that I could make bold, thoughtful decisions,” she said. “It was so much fun bringing those choices and thoughts to life during rehearsals and making everyone laugh, including myself.”

Taking the lead in a musical wasn’t new for Lawrence, but she felt the weight of expectation. After a special performance, a young boy presented Lawrence with a bouquet of flowers as his mom explained the little boy’s love for Ariel.  That’s when Lawrence realized the weight of her role. “I got to be a person they can look up to. I could encourage them and set an example for them,” she said. “This was a responsibility and an honor unmatched by any other, and it was an experience I will never forget.”

This fall, Lawrence plans to attend CU Boulder for aerospace engineering on a Navy ROTC scholarship. She dreams of being a pilot in the Navy, though performing will always hold a special place in her heart.

Mark Gomez

Mark Gomez

Role: Gomez Addams
Production: The Addams Family
School: The Arts Academy at Pueblo County High School

Here is a fun coincidence:  Mark Gomez portrayed Gomez Addams in The Addams Family. In actor Gomez’s opinion, character Gomez was one of the best roles he had ever portrayed.

The Addams Family shows us the familiar, gloomy characters we know and love, but with a new story. “Wednesday wants to get married, but she’s trying to keep it secret from her mother, Morticia.” Gomez will do anything to make his daughter happy, “including going against his wife’s rules,” Gomez explained.

Gomez had played a lead in three previous productions, but each role still brings something new to the table. “I had never played a naturally comedic character before, so I was immediately drawn to Gomez,” he said. “He has such a unique personality that doesn’t stand up to any of my other roles I’ve played.”

The desire to give the audiences a better performance than the previous night’s drove Gomez to work hard. Even through the nerves and the expectations, the support he received from his friends and theatre community at The Arts Academy at Pueblo County High School is a gift he will “forever cherish.” Some of his greatest memories were being a part of The Addams Family, and his theatre family.

After graduating this spring, Gomez will attend the University of Northern Colorado to study Musical Theatre. “I have always wanted to be a teacher, but over the past few years I have decided to switch to being an all-time performer,” Gomez said. He’s looking forward to taking vocal lessons, acting classes, and even a few ballet classes.