For the first time in four years, people attending Absegami High School drama club's musicals will not see Morgan Kirner.
Kirner, of Galloway Township, is now a freshman at The Boston Conservatory, but her high-school performances can be seen on YouTube and at pbs.org. Kirner was nominated for the Rising Star Award for best actress by the Paper Mill Playhouse in Millburn, Essex County, each year she attended Absegami. She won in May, which meant she was named the best musical theater actress in the state.
YouTube has footage of Kirner singing as Cinderella in "Into the Woods," a musical performance she did in May at Paper Mill. PBS.org contains the three-part documentary TV special "Broadway or Bust," which shows Kirner starting the closing night medley singing "Here Right Now" from the musical "Ghost."
"I was really nervous about the cameras at first because I didn't know what to expect. I didn't know what kind of questions they would be asking. It was difficult because not only were you under pressure because you wanted to make a good impression on the people around you, but you were going to be on camera and the possibly of being on TV as well," said Kirner, 19, during a phone interview. "It added to the nerves, but as the week went on, I made such good friendships with people that were there that we almost forgot they (cameras) were there, except when I could see them."
The documentary follows 60 high school students as they prepare to compete in the National High School Musical Theater Awards in New York City, otherwise known as the Jimmy Awards. Leading up to the awards ceremony, students participate in a week of rehearsals, coaching and auditions.
Kirner was invited to the Jimmy Awards and met other talented musical theater high schoolers from across the country. When Kirner participated in the Jimmy Awards, her fellow high school students voted to give her the Spirit of the Jimmy Award for the outstanding commitment, enthusiasm and camaraderie she exhibited during their week together.
"I don't think there was one person that didn't share that humbling feeling of being around people who have the same passion and have the same dream and will do pretty much anything in their power to try to make their dreams come true," Kirner said.
This month, Kirner finished her first semester at The Boston Conservatory.
"I chose it because I wanted to focus all of my attention on what I really, really love to do," Kirner said. "In the past couple of months, I realized that was one of the best decisions I ever made in my life. I love school."
Susan Frizzell, of Galloway Township, was Kirner's voice teacher before she left for college.
"Morgan is not only exceptionally gifted. She is just a really positive, high energy, caring, compassionate person. She really wants to see everyone else do well as well. She's not somebody who is out to say, 'Oh, I hope she trips and falls and breaks a leg,'" Frizzell said.
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To view a video of Morgan Kirner performing as Cinderella in "Into the Woods" with the Paper Mill Playhouse, scan the QR code with your smartphone camera. To see PBS' "Broadway or Bust" visitpbs.org/wgbh/broadway-or-bust.