SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (News4utah) – From long hours of rehearsals…to that shining moment in the spotlight, it all comes down to this…the annual Utah High School Musical awards held Saturday night at the Eccles Theater.

Similar to the Beehive State’s version of the Tony Awards, the evening showcased 10 production numbers by high schools nominated for Best Musical and medleys performed together by all contenders for Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actor and Best Supporting Actress. 

Michael Ballam, Founding Director of the Utah Festival Opera and the host of the award show said Utah is the only state that participates in the National High School Musical Theater Awards.

“We should because per capita there’s more musicals being done in this state than any state in the Union,” said Ballam. “More families own pianos in this state of Utah than any state in the Union. We like musicals.”

Ballam further states Utah is really good at recognizing athletic prowess and academic achievement.

“We’ve never been great about honoring and celebrating creativity,” said Ballam. “We have noticed as we recognize these gifts, the bar raises. Once they see what their colleagues are doing in other high schools somehow, they strive to be a little bit better. Things tend to get better when they’re measured, honored and celebrated.”

Awards were given out in 18 categories. Hillcrest High School took home the Zions Bank Award for Best Musical for their production of “Les Miserables. and Bennett Chew won Best Actor for his portrayal of Jean Valjean.

East High’s Aria Critchley won Best Actress for her role as Jane in East High’s Tarzan. Bennett and Aria won a trip to New York City to compete in the Jimmy® Awards in New York City in June where they will experience 10 days of private coaching, master classes and rehearsals with Theatre professionals. 

“We have amazingly talented students and teachers in this state and we need to celebrate that fact and that’s what the Utah High School Musical Theater Awards is all about,” said Ballam.

Utah Festival Opera and Musical Theatre sent 17 judges to 34 Utah high school musicals over the past 6 months to score and respond to the productions. Then the juried finalists competed in the official awards ceremony at the Eccles Theatre. The UHSMTA gives awards in 18 different categories from The Hotel Monaco Award for Best Direction to The Daynes Music Award for Best Orchestra and The Maverik and Vanguard Charitable Award for Best Ensemble. Visit ​​ for more info.

The education and outreach department of Utah Festival Opera and Musical Theatre in Logan sponsors and produces the event and is partnered with MagicSpace Entertainment and Broadway at the Eccles. The Domo Broadway at the Eccles Education Fund makes participation in National competition possible. Utah Festival Opera and Musical Theatre sponsors the winners of Best Actor and Best Actress to fly to NYC and compete on the national level.