By: Shane Embury

Student Life Editor

Three HVA musical theatre students have worked hard to compete for the annual Bijou Awards in Knoxville–and one talented performer emerged as a winner.

 In the competition, male and female students in East Tennessee can compete in either the acting or singing category and perform a monologue or 16 measures of a song, depending on which category they have entered. The students may receive a callback and return to compete for a position in the final five, where they then deliver a final performance for a chance to win $1000 and an additional $500 for their school.

The singing and acting competition takes place at the Bijou Theatre here in Knoxville. Photo from Google Images


 Hardin Valley Academy was well-represented with four musical theatre students earning callbacks: junior Chloe Freeman, senior Bekah McNair, senior Ben Prager and senior Austin Rambo. Nevertheless, HVA is no stranger to the competition. Some students, such as senior Annie Jo Roberts, competed last year and got a callback, while other students, such as the aforementioned Austin Rambo, have now gotten callbacks for two years in a row.

 Leading up to the final performance, there was a lot of stress and diligent practice. Each student needed to have one piece–and sometimes two–prepared to perform.

 “I sang for my first [song], ‘You Make Me Feel So Young,’ which got me my callback, which was awesome,” said Rambo, who took part in the male singing category. “Then [we must] pick a contrasting song for our next one, so I did ‘You Make Me Feel So Young’ and ‘Billionaire.’ That was stressful because it’s a higher register.”

 “I sang ‘Mama Who Bore Me,’ and the contrasting song was ‘Morning Person,’” said Chloe Freeman, who participated in female singing. “When I sang ‘Mama Who Bore Me,’ I also signed with American Sign Language.”

 The students all agreed that the judges for the competition did not give any feedback. Occasionally, silence from the judges can make performing a little more intimidating.

 “The audience seemed to receive me the best, but I didn’t know if the judges did,” said Prager. “I was nervous. There were a few other guys in my category that were really good.”

 First-time competitor Ben Prager showed off his skills in the male acting category, and he came out on top with the win and generous cash prize on Saturday, January 14. This is the first time that HVA has pulled out an overall win.


Prager performs his final monologe on January 14, winning him the first place prize. Photo from the Bijou Awards Facebook page


 “It was so incredible, and I didn’t expect it at all,” said Prager.

 Prager said that the cash prize will come in handy when he goes to New York over spring break with the school’s ensemble group. “And I will give the $500 to musical theatre,” he added.

 Prager also said that his first two monologues were of the Queen of Hearts from “Alice in Wonderland,” followed by Edna Turnblad from “Hairspray.”  His final performance that won him the first place prize was called “The 26 Year-Old Bar Mitzvah Boy” from the play “Goodbye Charles.”

 “There’s people from all over East Tennessee, and they all have so much different talent from everyone else,” said Prager. “It’s really a blessing to be a part of it. I will never stop performing.”