Camille Nugent from Fossil Ridge High School and Connor O’Brian from Lakewood High School got to the top of high school theatre in Colorado in very different ways. Since she was 6 years old, Nugent has been on stage. Her first paid role was as Young Cosette in “Les Misérables” at the Midtown Arts Centre in Fort Collins. “I would say that theatre has been the most important part of who I am as a person and how I see the world,” Nugent said. O’Brian stayed interested in the stage and football until his final year, which was as long as he could. That’s when he was finally forced to choose between his two loves. Both needed people to work together, both made families, and both gave him a chance to be active. But theatre also gave him a chance to go to whole new places. “More importantly,” he said, “theatre really helped me figure out who I am as a person.”
To use a term from sports, Nugent and O’Brian are our two individual state winners in the theatre. At the Denver Center’s recent Bobby G Awards, they were named the two Outstanding Performers for the 2022-23 school year. Nugent played Alice in the bluegrass musical “Bright Star,” which was written by comedian Steve Martin and pop-music star Edie Brickell. O’Brian played a hilariously vainglorious Shakespeare in Lakewood’s “Something Rotten,” which was a comedy about how the world’s first musical came to be in Shakespeare’s time. Talk about the stars that shine. On May 18, the two Outstanding Performers were announced from the stage of the Ellie Caulkins Opera House. The 10 teens, who had just met 10 days before, held hands to show their support.
As Nugent walked up to the stage after hearing her name called, time seemed to slow down. With graduation coming up, that strange moment became “a really beautiful marker for the end of one journey and the beginning of another,” said Nugent, who will go to Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh this fall. Because of all the yelling, O’Brian didn’t even hear his name called. “But then I looked up at the screen and was like, ‘Wait, my name is up there, too!” said O’Brian, who will start this fall at the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley, the state’s best college programme for musical theatre.
But first, these two new friends will go to New York City on Monday to represent Colorado at the National High School Musical Theatre Awards, also known as “The Jimmy Awards.” After 11 days of training with some of Broadway’s best artists, Nugent, O’Brian, and 94 other regional winners from across the country will make their Broadway starts at the Minskoff Theatre with a one-night-only show.