By MIKE CHAIKEN
For herself personally, Jillian Caillouette already felt proud of her performances in St. Paul Catholic High School’s production of “Little Women: The Musical.”
The judges of the Connecticut High School Musical Theater awards agreed she had a lot to be proud of her performance as Jo Marsh in the musical adaptation of Louisa May Alcott’s novel. Her performance in the show earned her the top honor of “Outstanding Female Vocalist.”
That award now has earned her a chance to perform on Broadway for top honors in the National High School Musical Theater Awards—also known as the Jimmys—on July 1.
“I knew something was really right for this role for me,” said Jillian of her performance in “Little Women.” She said, “I really fit it and I really connected to the character. And throughout the run of ‘Little Women,’ I just felt really, really proud of myself. I was really happy with my performance and when I went to the Connecticut High School Musical Theater Awards (in Norwich), I just could not wait to get on stage and sing my song for everyone because…I became the lyrics for the song. I just really felt it.”
Like the Oscars, the top awards usually come at the end of the evening. So Jillian was held in suspense as she waited for the Connecticut honors to be announced earlier this month.
“It was really crazy,” said Jillian, who had a chance to perform her song on the awards nights. “After my performance… in the beginning of the show, I had to sit through the rest of the show to find out (if I won).”
“I’m just sitting there, enjoying (the evening of other performances), but still, at the back of my mind, I was thinking ‘Gosh, what if I win. What happens? I don’t have a prepared speech. This is not good…’”
“Something that happens when I’m nervous is I shake my foot,” said Jillian.“So (as I’m waiting) my foot is shaking like crazy.”
And when her name was announced as the winner, Jillian said, “I started to cry and shaking I couldn’t walk down the stairs fast enough because we were on the top balcony… I had to go down all these stairs and walk through the crowd. It was crazy..”
“After winning,” said Jillian, “it was a crazy two days. I had to get a lot done. I had to get two songs to sing. I had to get a headshot (photographed) and a five minute video talking about myself. It was a lot of mayhem.”
Now that she has won the Connecticut honors, she will be heading to New York this weekend to prepare for a performance on the stage of the Minskoff Theatre, where “The Lion King” currently has taken up residency.
“Once I get there, Wednesday through Monday, we have workshops (some in groups, some individually) every single day from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. It’s very rigorous and very intense. You get to perform for the judges on Sunday night (which is their audition for Monday night.)”
“If I get to the top three, I get to perform my new solo song for the judges (on Monday),” said Jillian.
For her two songs before the judges for the audition, Jillian said, she will be singing “Finding Wonderland” from the musical “Wonderland” and “Superboy and the Invisible Girl” from “Next to Normal.”
“The songs I chose are both strong and passionate songs and I’m very passionate about what I do,” said Jillian. “I’m very determined and both songs I can really connect to them.”
Jillian has already shown her affinity for musical theater during her time at Bristol’s St. Paul.
Last year, Jillian found herself in the lead role of “Elle Woods” in St. Paul’s version of “Legally Blonde the Musical.”
The musical comedy offered up a different shade of Jillian.
“Elle, compared to my character Jo, is completely different. Elle was fun, Jo was fun but in a different way. They’re both determined, passionate young women. Jo was a little more tomboyish. She was more passionate in a different way.”
Jillian also said the two roles also have marked an evolution of herself as a performer. “From last year to this year… I’ve really grown as an actress and singer… It really showed in my character of Jo.”
Besides her stage credits, Jillian also is a singer-songwriter. And if she has her way, she will mine both facets of performance for a career.
“I just love doing different things because a show only runs just so long. In-between, I love writing songs,” she said.
Just as Jillian likes to do different things with her performance talent, she said her music also taps into different sources. “I experiment with different types of music… It’s really interesting. It’s not just pop. It’s not just electronic. It’s just very different how I write music.”
The Jimmys will be held at the Minskoff Theater in New York on Monday, July 1 at 7:30 p.m.