Photo by Mark Vancleave

Nathaniel Irvin and Haley Kurr received their SpotLight Awards from Hennepin Theatre Trust President Tom Koch.


By Rohan Preston

Nathaniel Irvin and Haley Kurr are gleeful, and a little "Glee."

The two musical theater phenoms were chosen Monday to strut their stuff on a bigger stage. Kurr and Irvin will represent Minnesota at a national high school musical theater competition being held June 28 in New York at the Marquis Theatre in Times Square. 

After participating in master classes and working with professional coaches in New York, recent Minnetonka High School graduate Irvin, and incoming Wayzata High School senior Kurr will sing and dance for a chance to earn academic scholarships to New York University's Tisch School of the Arts. 

"Oh, my God, it's such a wonderful opportunity," said Celine Carlson, parent of another student and longtime supporter of Irvin. "It encourages kids who put themselves out there to know that their efforts can be rewarded like this."

The two students were among those toasted Monday at the annual SpotLight Theatre Awards program, featuring performances from 39 high schools and presented at Minneapolis' Orpheum Theatre by the Hennepin Theatre Trust. There was nervousness aplenty onstage and in the audience. But many of the young singers, actors and dancers, who hailed from schools in such places as Bemidji, Moorhead and Eagan, were poised.

Hosted by incorrigible actor-comedienne Greta Grosch, the award program featured presenters such as WCCO-TV anchor Frank Vascellaro; David O'Fallon, CEO of the MacPhail Center for Music; and John Miller-Stephany, associate artistic director at the Guthrie.

Both Kurr and Irvin, who has already been admitted to the Boston Conservatory and has won a $10,000 scholarship from AXA Equitable and World News and Report, showed why they deserved their honors. Kurr sold her Nellie Forbush in "South Pacific" with flair while Irvin strutted his stuff as Chauvelin in "The Scarlett Pimpernel."

Other standouts at the Orpheum included Carter Bellaimey as Billy Lawlor in "42 Second Street"; Eastview High School's Sarah Cartwright, who played Annie; Washburn's Martina Guerra, who sang a number as Ti Moune from "Once on this Island"; and three young men who all played the Cowardly Lion in "The Wizard of Oz."

"The performances were really good but at their best, they were wonderful," said avid theatergoer James Rosenbaum, who attended with his wife, Marilyn Brown Rosenbaum.


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