KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- This week's FOX 4 Young Achievers started in the performing arts as small children, one as a dancer and the other as a singer. They kept training and learning new skills and now they are in the spotlight as two of America's top high school musical theater talents, recognition that got them to the Broadway stage.
It was a huge moment in each of their young lives. Patrick Graham and Lily Kauffman accepted their Starlight Theatre Blue Star awards in May for best lead performances by an actor and actress in high school musical theater productions the past school year.
"It's a very competitive position to be in," said Ann Reinert, Starlight Theater Director of Education and Outreach. "This year we had 43 schools participating and they submitted 50 productions. And so that's a lot, a lot of competition."
In the Blue Star awards ceremony, Lily displayed the superb talent that got her the honor for her sparkling performance in the Shawnee Mission East High School production of The Drowsy Chaperone.
Patrick wowed the crowd with the deep, rich baritone that was the foundation for his award-winning portrayal of the title character in Sweeney Todd at Lee's Summit North High.
"Their abilities, their talent, their skills and just the wonderful people that they are (made them stand out)," said Reinert.
And their star turns got them to the pinnacle of American musical theater -- Broadway.
"The first time you walked on the stage, you kind of were hit with this, 'I'm on the Broadway stage now!'" said Patrick.
"It was always my dream this would happen but the fact my dreams became a reality at such a young age is a blessing in itself," said Lily.
As Blue Star winners for lead performances, Lily and Patrick got invited to New York City this summer as nominees for ‘The Jimmys’, the National High School Musical Theatre Awards. They were among 62 terrific teenage performers from across the country. And over several days they trained with top Broadway pros, worked with their peers, networked with influential theater people and got to perform on the stage of the Minskoff Theater.
"Oh, they were fantastic!" said Reinert who accompanied them as Starlight sponsored Patrick and Lilly to the competition. "I was so proud. I was like a proud mama looking at my babies."
As they experienced Broadway together, Lily and Patrick got a great opportunity to watch the other train and perform and to see exactly what makes the other an outstanding musical theater artist.
"His voice literally can take over an audience of 3,000 like it did at the Minskoff," said Lily in admiration. "And besides that, he's so personable. It's also a quality I think is so important in a performer."
"Lily is the triple threat," said Patrick with equal admiration. "She can sing. She can dance. And she can act. And she is skilled in all three. And nowadays in the industry, that's something you really have to have to succeed."
They didn't bring a ‘Jimmy Award’ home from New York City but just getting to perform on a Broadway stage was win enough for both Lily, who is aiming for a career in musical theater, and for Patrick, who intends to study journalism in college.
"I learned so many things there that are going to help me with my career path," said Lily. "There's just so many amazing things that came from it."
"I keep coming back for more even though I don't want to do it professionally," said Patrick. "It's something I always will enjoy and will want to do recreationally, I think."
"It was powerful," said Lily. "It was powerful. It was very cool."
"That's something I'll always remember," said Patrick.
Starlight Theatre presented 20 Blue Star awards to performers and crew members in May, everything from leads to lighting to costume design. Check out the list of the teenagers whose great work was recognized at https://www.kcstarlight.com/starlight_blog/starlight_blog_post.aspx?id=313
FOX 4 News is Working 4 You to spotlight outstanding young people and their positive accomplishments. In our weekly report called Reaching 4 Excellence we meet young achievers in subjects like academics, the arts, leadership, community service, volunteerism, career exploration, overcoming obstacles and heroism. Watch for Reaching 4 Excellence every Monday on Fox 4 News at 8 a.m., every Wednesday on Fox 4 News at 9 p.m. and every Thursday on Fox 4 News at 5 p.m.