By Shari Goldstein Stern
The curtain will rise on the seventh annual Dallas Summer Musicals (DSM) 2017-2018 High School Musical Theatre Awards Thursday, May 17, at the Music Hall at Fair Park, and several Jewish students are in nominated shows — two in lead or featured roles.
According to DSM President Kenneth T. Novice, “Patterned after Broadway’s Tony Awards, the DSM High School Musical Theatre Awards (HSMTA) celebrate the power of the arts and its ability to significantly improve all areas of education. As the second largest program of its kind in the country, the DSM HSMTA recognize artistic and educational achievements of North Texas and Oklahoma students and their high school programs.”
Adi Bitton from J.J. Pearce High School has been nominated for Best Leading Actress for her performance of Winnie Foster in the school’s performance of Tuck Everlasting. She will also walk the red carpet Thursday with the cast of the school’s Les Misérables, which is nominated for Best Musical. She played Cosette.
“I loved how Cry-Baby was so adventurous and magical,” she said. “It opened my eyes to a completely different type of musical as well as challenged me as an actor.”
The actor has been doing musical theater since junior high through high school; she sang in choir her first three years of high school, and before that, she sang in junior high.
Adi said, “I was absolutely thrilled about the whole DSM experience last year, so when I found out I was nominated again this year, I couldn’t hold back my excitement. Musical theater has become one of my passions and influenced me to study the subject in college.”
She continued, “I am going to attend Texas State University in the fall and hope to pursue the major of production and performance. I would love to begin working in the professional work of theater in New York and start auditioning for shows and getting helpful internships.”
Adi said she always loved singing and was introduced to musical theater around eighth grade while seeing one of the musicals at Pearce. “I knew what my dream was, to be up there on that stage,” she said. “I’ve been taking dance classes as well as vocal lessons and I’m working on character envelopment at school.” She added, “DSM is so cool because although it is a competition, it’s also a time to make friends and, most of all, have fun.
“Being Jewish and an actor really influences my character and outlook on theater. Judaism taught me to always be respectful and humble, and it has also shaped me into the performer I am today,” she added.
Meanwhile, Greenhill’s Cry-Baby earned 10 nominations, and had four Jewish students in the cast: Lindsay Jade Feinstein, Kate Franklin and Leah Fradkin were in the ensemble.
Jeffrey Harberg played a member of the barbershop quartet, The Whiffles. The young actor said, “Joining the musical my freshman year was one of the best decisions I ever made. I went out my comfort zone and joined a group of people I was not close with. Over the course of that year, I fell in love with the feeling of being onstage, the feeling of creating a story with other people.
“I had the privilege of learning acting and dancing from very skilled and knowledgeable teachers, and I became close friends with people who I had never talked to before. I had a bigger role than last year, and I was excited to have the opportunity to show my talents onstage,” he said. “Learning the songs, dances, and lines was fun because I was surrounded by people who love theater as much as I do,” he added.
Jeffrey started singing in the middle school choir in fifth through ninth grades, and music continues to be a big part of his life. He watched his older siblings, Max and Samantha, perform in musicals. Both are gifted with musical talent and are an inspiration to their brother.
“I watched Max play the lead in the Greenhill musical. He was skilled, passionate and determined when it came to theater. I knew, watching him on that stage, that I wanted to do that someday because he really seemed to love what he was doing, and he made it look fun,” he said.
Max and Samantha performed together in The Addams Family and Jeffrey gained an understanding of how much of a bonding experience the theater really is. “Every person you perform with becomes your best friend during the musical.” Although the young thespian doesn’t describe himself as a triple threat yet, he has taken piano lessons and vocal training and seems to be on the musical theater tr