Jul 19, 2019

Dazzle Award Winners in NYC: Chaperoning the Stars of Tomorrow

By Sheffia Dooley, Assistant Director of Community Engagement & Education

The Dazzle Awards program, presented by Pat and John Chapman, recognizes excellence in Northeast Ohio high school musical theater. It’s also affiliated with the National High School Musical Theatre Awards presented by The Broadway League, known as the “Jimmy Awards.” 

After the Dazzle Awards in May, the journey continues for our Best Actor and Best Actress (J.R. Heckman and Margo Tipping are this year’s winners) with 10 days in New York City for the Jimmy Awards. 

As Playhouse Square’s Assistant Director of Community Engagement & Education, I get to chaperone.

Sheffia: “Mom Away From Mom”

This year and last year, I escorted our Best Actor and Best Actress to the Jimmy Awards in New York City. Being a Jimmy’s chaperone is mostly standing at the ready until my charges need something, interspersed with bursts of activity to make sure they have what they need.

This year’s journey started at Cleveland Hopkins Airport. We barely made the luggage weight requirements and got detoured to Chicago. Whoops, where is my carry on!



After landing in NYC, Margo and J.R. hit the ground running and are whisked into rehearsals. I get a donut and a haircut while I wait for them. I’m happy to pick up my charges at 9 p.m. As we walk back to the dorms at NYU (our accommodations for the week), I’m asking about everything that happened, how they feel, what they need, what can I do for them tomorrow. I’m “Mom away from Mom.”

The next day, I’m back at the Donut Pub (it’s across the street from the Jimmy’s rehearsal space at NYU Tisch) when I find out J.R. is selected to perform in the Character Group, which means he is required to wear his Beast costume from Beauty and the Beast for his performance on Broadway’s Minskoff stage. 

JR costume.jpg

Suddenly, I am scrubbing collars, repairing the Beast horn damaged during travel with “superglue,” then applying makeup and stipple to the masking tape I’ve MacGyvered to secure the glue (thanks Doc Fruth for my classes in theater costumes and makeup)! Finally, the costume is ready for inspection by the director and it passes. 

By our third day, I move into the Donut Pub and they ask me to start paying rent. 

Just kidding! But I am there long enough during the day to get to know the staff.

Rehearsal Days for our Nominees

I begin to notice certain habits develop. Margo is always the first to arrive to everything. J.R. likes to have ginger shots to stay healthy. Margo likes to wear scarves in the summer and J.R. needs a “nice crisp drink” to sooth the vocal chords so he drinks a mango smoothie every evening. 

JR and Margo at Sardis (002).jpg

After taking the usual group picture with all the Jimmy Awards participants in Time Square, Margo and J.R. suddenly have the biggest smiles and widest eyes. Surprise! I turn around just in time to see their beautiful headshots, stories tall on a digital billboard on Times Square. Every Jimmy Awards nominee get screen time as the pictures scroll through. IT IS AMAZING and wonderful and breathtaking and inspiring.

Then we’re off to see Dear Evan Hansen after dinner at Sardi’s. A three-time Jimmy Awards nominee, J.R. is excited to see a former fellow finalist (Andrew Barth Feldman) perform as Evan Hansen on Broadway. I am almost in tears watching this young man shine so bright and I think about all the very talented Dazzle Awards students that give so much of themselves through their art! 

Headshots in Times Square.jpg

J.R. and Margo practice long, hard hours preparing for the Jimmy Awards show. They receive coaching daily and learn intricate choreography and music in an unbelievably short amount of time. I kick into full chaperone mode with fruit, water, umbrellas, clothes, more smoothies, more ginger, more of anything that my charges may need to do their very best work. I see them grow a little, struggle some, grow a little more and then begin to soar.

In the midst of all this, J.R. and Margo find time to perfect really great impressions of me eating donuts and dodging street cleaners. They crack me up more and more with every walk to and from Tisch. I’m a lucky lady to spend so much time with such amazing humans!

The Night of the Jimmy Awards Finally Arrives!

By the time we get to the big night, I’ve logged 100,000 steps on the NYU campus, 9 nights sleeping on a dorm room mat and at least a dozen donuts from…you guessed it…Donut Pub!

While her smile is bright as ever, I see Margo steeling her nerves and mentally mapping her path for her Broadway debut.  I see J.R. honing in and uber-focused, like an athlete before a big game. He is in the zone.  

Witnessing their progress from Cleveland to New York City, and up to this very moment, my heart is filled; I am so proud of their work and accomplishments. Before they go on stage I hug them tight and tell them what I tell my very own, “you already got this, darlings, now go do your thing!” 

Then they are off. They both take flight across the Minskoff stage…and I become the manager of the Donut Pub. Just kidding. But I do buy some stock.

Donut Pub Pixel Height.jpg