June 25, 2024

Gretchen Shope shines bright with national recognition

Rising star wins 2024 National High School Musical Theatre Award

Gretchen Shope, a recent graduate of H.H. Dow High School in Midland, was announced the winner of the 15th annual National High School Music Theatre Awards (Jimmy Awards) Monday night at Broadway’s Minskoff Theatre. Shope beat out 101 competitors from all over the country by winning Best Performance by an Actress. Earlier in the month, on June 1, Shope was named Outstanding Performer in a Leading Role at the 12th annual Sutton Foster Awards Showcase held at Wharton Center and is the first Sutton Foster winner to win the Jimmy Awards. 

“Since winning, I feel an overwhelming sense of gratitude for my community," says Shope. “Midland has raised me to be the actor and person I am today, and I wouldn't be able to tell my stories on stage if I hadn't felt loved and appreciated by them. Immediate thanks go to the Sutton Foster Awards at Wharton Center, as I wouldn't be anywhere without them. I would like to thank my family, friends, and mentors who have covered me in armor with the amount of love they send. Thank you to anyone who has given me advice, a shoulder to cry on, or even a simple smile after a show.” 

Shope had to skip her high school graduation and prom to attend the Jimmy Awards, but adds, “I was graduating summa cum laude at Dow High … but I think I made the right choice.”

The 15th Annual Jimmy Awards, hosted by Josh Groban, serves as a platform to celebrate excellence in high school musical theatre. Shope's achievement highlights her exceptional artistry and commitment to her craft. The other winner of the evening was Damson Chola Jr from Texas. Both Shope and Chola received a $25,000 scholarship toward their education

The Sutton Foster Award is named in honor of Michigan’s own Broadway star, Sutton Foster. It is a celebration of outstanding achievement in individual artistry, vocal, dance, and acting in a high school musical theatre production. Shope along with the other Sutton Foster Award winner, Braeden Davis from Loy Norrix High School in Kalamazoo, were chosen from 121 high school drama students from across Michigan to move on to the Jimmy Awards in New York City. Shope is the first Sutton Foster winner to win at the Jimmy Awards. Antonio Cipriano was a Jimmy Award finalist in 2017.

“Gretchen’s win last night helps to highlight the incredible talent in Michigan’s schools and is represented at the Sutton Foster Awards each year. It is an exciting culmination of Wharton Center’s ongoing commitment to arts education,” said Eric Olmscheid, Wharton Center Executive Director.

The Jimmy Awards, named in honor of Broadway impresario James M. Nederlander, have been instrumental in awarding educational scholarships and fostering the growth of young talent in the theatre community.