Recent Canyon Crest Academy graduate Cameron Chang recently took the Broadway stage to perform in the 2016 National High School Musical Theatre Awards, known as the Jimmy Awards. The award show hosted by Tony Award nominated performer Zachary Levi featured 62 high school finalists from across the country at The Minskoff Theatre.
As a top six finalist, Cameron won a $2,500 scholarship.
Cameron made it to Broadway by winning San Diego’s Ben Vereen Awards on the strength of his performance as Aldolpho in CCA’s production of “The Drowsy Chaperone.” The comedic character of Aldolpho in the play is a self-described “Latin Lothario” who thinks he is very seductive but is actually a “complete buffoon.”
“It’s definitely the most fun I’ve ever had on stage, playing that part,” Cameron said.
For 10 intensive days in New York leading up to the show, Cameron was out of his “San Diego theater bubble,” singing and dancing on the same Broadway stage where “The Lion King” is performed, with some of the country’s brightest young talents. The moment was hard to process at the time but looking back after a whirlwind on the Great White Way, he finds himself saying “Wow, that actually happened.”
Cameron got his start in theater at age 7, performing in a second grade class play. His parents were encouraged by others to have him try out for youth theater productions — he auditioned and won his first role in “Rumpelstiltskin is My Name” with the J* Company.
He performed with J* Company for the last 10 years and has performed with San Diego Junior Theatre and California Youth Conservatory in addition to his shows at CCA, where he was in the Envision Theatre Conservatory.
At the Ben Vereen Awards on May 30, Cameron was judged the best out of 20 finalists in San Diego.
“I was completely flabbergasted, especially for that kind of role,” Cameron said. “It was a really rewarding moment because I felt like all of the hard work over the years really paid off.”
Cameron said he had such a great time working with all of the Ben Vereen Award nominees, including fellow CCA student Samantha Tullie.
“It was such a wonderful experience, everyone was so cool and nice and funny and we goofed off probably more than we should have,” Cameron said. “Winning the award was just the cherry on top of the sundae.”
Before heading off to New York, Cameron also got the opportunity to sing “The National Anthem” at the Padres game on June 1 with female Ben Vereen Award winner Jazley Genovese.
The 62 Jimmy Award finalists prepared for the award show over 10 days at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts. The finalists performed together as a group in the opening number. The medley included some songs new to Cameron from this season’s Broadway shows, such as “Shuffle Along,” “She Loves Me” and “Waitress.” Others in the number, like songs from the hit “Hamilton,” “Aladdin” and “Lion King,” he knew quite well.
It was a little bit stressful to learn all the new songs in such a short rehearsal time, but he said everyone was in the same boat and the focus was always on making it fun.
“Everybody realized that we were in New York City, performing on a Broadway stage,” Cameron said. “Not many people can say they’ve done that.”
Cameron also performed in a smaller medley group that featured snippets from each contestants’ nominated role.
Judging had started in preliminary rounds and the eight finalists found out they were the top at the same time as the audience did. All had prepared a solo in the event they were in the top eight and Cameron was the first to perform.
“I had a minute, really no prep time,” Cameron said. “It was definitely a raw and fresh performance.”
Cameron chose to sing “Disneyland” from the musical “Smile.” He made a point to pick an emotional song that was “sad and sweet,” a good contrast from his earlier comedic solo as Aldolpho.
As part of the Jimmy experience, all of the students got to see the Broadway show “On Your Feet!” and after the awards show, Cameron and his family went to see “The Color Purple.”
Cameron is currently taking a break from the stage before he heads off to college this fall. He will attend Otterbein University in Ohio, to get his bachelor of fine arts degree in musical theater and minor in film studies.
Sharing the stage with 62 kids from all over the country at the Jimmy’s was an experience he will never forget.
“On the first day we all sang our solos for the director and it was really amazing to hear everybody,” Cameron said. “It gives you hope for the future of musical theater because there’s so much talent out there.”