DHS Fall Musical Matilda Nominated for Multiple Shuler Awards


Calder walking up to accept her award. Photo credit: Ben Rose

Carly Collins

On Apr. 21, the Decatur High School Musical Theater Program attended the Georgia High School Musical Theatre Awards ceremony after being nominated for multiple Shuler awards for their fall production of Matilda. The Shuler Hensley Awards program, named after Tony Award winner Shuler Hensley, is an annual show meant to celebrate excellence in high school musical theatre.

The cast performed a number from their show before the awards ceremony portion, all of which was broadcasted live on Georgia Public Broadcasting. During the ceremony, DHS’ Matilda was recognized in five different categories and garnered nominations for two different actresses in one category. Junior Lorelei Calder, one of the two nominated student actresses, took home the award for this category by the end of the night. 

The play was nominated for Best Overall Production, an honor which only six high schools achieved this year. Both Calder and senior Bridget Blanchard were nominated for Best Supporting Performer and Calder ultimately won for her performance as Ms. Honey, beating out eleven other actors and actresses. 

The show also received three honorary mentions: Best Costumes for Raven Owen-Beyer and Sofia McDaniels, Best Leading Actress for senior Carrie Crespino and Best Direction, also for Owen-Beyer.

Calder shared that she had no expectation to win in the slightest and hadn’t even written an acceptance speech. 

“I had the least faith in myself over anyone else who knows me,” she admitted, “[so] once I realized [I had won] I honestly went into shock. I have such little memory of receiving the award and giving my speech.”

Although she may not have realized it then, once she was “able to process what actually happened”, she was “overjoyed, and so excited and grateful.”

For many high school students, winning a Shuler is an extreme honor due to its significance in the high school theater community. Calder explained that it motivated her and showed her that she is “headed in the right direction”, even though she has a lot more to learn. She said that it also meant so much to her because she is the first person from Decatur to win one, so she feels extremely connected to the community of the Decatur Theatre program. 

Blanchard, who played Mrs. Wormwood in Matilda, explained why she still fully enjoyed her experience even though she was not victorious in her category: 

“Honestly, I wasn’t even expecting to be nominated so just getting to be there and perform was a dream come true. Of course, it would’ve been incredible to take home an award but at the end of the day, I am so proud of everyone, especially Lorelei. She absolutely deserved to win,” Blanchard stated. 

All of the cast members arrived at the venue, the Cobb Energy Center, early in the morning to have as much time as possible to prepare. All day, the actors rehearsed the same scene repeatedly to achieve a level of perfection fit for the broadcasted event. They prepared in anticipation until it was time to get dressed for the televised portion; once dressed and ready, the cast members’ night consisted of walking the carpet, getting interviewed and dining in the lobby. After this time during which they got to feel “very professional”, the cast then went to change into their costumes and watch the show in a ballroom screening until it was their turn to perform their one song, according to Calder.

Although the cast was only on stage performing for a couple of minutes, the preparation for this scene was rigorous for weeks in advance. 

“We started rehearsing almost immediately after the nominations were announced on Mar. 24,” Blanchard said, “so for about four weeks, our cast was drilling and reworking our performance of “Revolting Children” every single day until we got on that stage,”

Calder elaborated on all of the grueling work that had to be done on short notice. The cast had to re-learn the Matilda choreography as soon as they found out they won a nomination for Best Overall Production, which happened to be while they were in the middle of performing the spring musical, Mamma Mia!. Changes had to be made to the choreography, all class time became devoted to practicing the scene and the entire set had to be rebuilt. On top of that, the cast traveled to the Cobb Energy Center three times during the week before the Shulers to practice the scene on the real stage, figure out ideal camera angles and even run through the entire awards ceremony three times. 

While this preparation demanded such large amounts of time and commitment from all of the performers, Calder said that it was all “so much fun” and it ended up being “the best night of her life.” She shared that she intends to pursue theater after high school and that winning the Shuler was “the biggest motivator ever.” 

However, she recognizes that this is not even the most significant part of the event. Blanchard put it into words, explaining that the Shulers is more than just a competition: it is truly about connecting with a larger community of passionate students in theater, and celebrating that passion together.