Saying “Break a leg” before a theatre performance has been often thought of as good luck for an actor and for one Carmel Valley teen that was particularly true as breaking a bone turned out to be his introduction to an award-winning acting career.
About a decade ago, Jonas McMullen’s younger brother pushed him down a flight of stairs, thus breaking McMullen’s collarbone and ending his ability to play soccer for the rest of the year. Not wanting to sit around and do nothing, then-8-year-old McMullen asked his mother what he should do instead.
"Why don't you try out for a musical?" his mother responded, knowing her son had a talent for singing.
Thus McMullen, who was cast in a production of "Les Misérables" that fateful year, opened a new door to the world of musical theatre.
On May 27, McMullen, a now-18-year-old senior at Canyon Crest Academy, was awarded the "Best Actor" distinction at the Broadway San Diego Awards. He competed against nine other young actors from high schools across San Diego County. Ten girls also vyed to be named the "Best Actress," with Felicity Bryant of Coronado High School earning the distinction.
"It's really amazing to be recognized in that role," McMullen said regarding his award. "I did not expect it at all. I was so shocked to even make it into the top three with the talent this year. ... I was just so honored to be among this group. This year, especially, the caliber was something special and the group dynamic was really awesome."
McMullen, who has performed in CCA’s musical theatre program since his freshman year, was recognized for his performances as The Baker in "Into the Woods" and Henry Jekyll in "Jekyll and Hyde.” Last year, he made the top three at the Broadway San Diego Awards for his rendition of Ren in "Footloose."
Prior to the awards ceremony on May 27, McMullen and the other 19 competing teens attended a week-long intensive at San Diego State University for six hours each night. There, they worked with choreographers from the university’s Masters of Fine Arts program and also took lessons from professional actors, like Joshua Grosso, who plays Marius in the touring production of "Les Misérables."
At the awards show, the 20 teens performed numbers from Broadway shows like "Waitress" and "Beautiful: The Carole King Musical" for the judges, as well as individual songs. McMullen chose to sing "This is the Moment" from "Jekyll and Hyde," which he said ended up symbolizing his night.
"Not only did I think about it in the context of the show and the character I was playing, but it was a pretty amazing moment for me to be up on that stage and just relish this experience," he said. "Even though the Broadway San Diego Awards is a competition, it's more of an educational opportunity. I feel like I've grown so much through this process."
As winners of the Broadway San Diego Awards, McMullen and Bryant, the "Best Actress" winner, will head to New York City at the end of June for intensive training and to compete in the National High School Musical Theatre Awards for a $10,000 scholarship.
CCA’s theatre director, Jeannine Marquie, said she was proud of McMullen’s accomplishments.
"Jonas has always been a very professional and diligent performer, as well as a kind and well-liked person," she said. "Over the years, I’ve watched him grow exponentially into a careful actor who is interested in continuous personal growth. It's been a privilege to have worked with him both in class and in productions."
McMullen, who plans to study theatre at the University of Michigan in the fall, said he's looking forward to the competition, as well as meeting other like-minded young performers and receiving advice from professionals.
"I feel lucky that I can do something that I love and pursue it as a career,” he said. “Go with what life throws at you. If you break your collarbone, don't look at that as a year of waiting to do something. Try something new because you never know where it's going to take you. I don't think when I was 8 years old that I [thought I] would be going to school for musical theatre [today], and now I couldn't be happier with my choice."