“Everyone around me started to panic. Lakeview Academy Student Wins Shuler Prize and Participates in National Musical Theater Competition


Ari Mikels, a junior at Lakeview Academy, said he will never forget the spark that ignited his passion for acting.

In fifth grade, he played the role of the pumpkin turning into a carriage in a children’s version of “Cinderella”.

Ari Mikels, a junior at Lakeview Academy, won the award for Best Leading Actor at the 2021 Georgia High School Musical Theater Awards. Photo courtesy of Lakeview Academy

“I didn’t turn into a carriage, I was just wearing a pumpkin costume, and then our Cinderella just rode on my back the whole time,” Mikels said with a chuckle. “It was amazing.”

Now in high school, Mikels has taken on his biggest theatrical challenge yet – attending the Georgia High School Musical Theater Awards, also known as The Shuler Awards.

In order to enter the program, Mikels performed in a musical set up by his school. The performance of “Urinetown” was recorded and sent for judging.

To Mikels’ surprise, he won the state award for best lead actor. The awards ceremony was televised via Georgia Public Broadcasting on May 20.

“They usually go for very high tenor voices, and I’m not,” Mikels said. “But, when they called out my name, everyone around me started to panic. I sat there with my hands in front of my mouth for a good 10 minutes. It was very cool.”

The Shuler Awards, presented as the Shuler Hensley Awards, are named after the Marietta-born stage and movie star. This year’s winners include students from various state and private schools in Georgia. Some of the different categories are overall production, direction, musical direction, choreography, costumes, lead actress and lead actor.

Mikels said her lead role, which won her the honor, turned out to be her most difficult performance.

Dressed in a police uniform and graying mustache, Mikels played the “Officer Lockstock” antagonist and narrator.

The musical “Urinetown” takes place in a fictional location where a drought has forced a ban on private toilets. To use the toilet, people have to pay to use a public toilet. Mikels said the show focuses on a “group of poor people who can barely get by”.

If people break the rules in place, they are sent to “Urinetown,” which Mikels says involves being thrown off the side of a building. However, his character, who has enforced the rules, is the only one who is fully aware of it.

“The hardest part and the reason he (Officer Lockstock) was my favorite I’ve ever played is because he’s an older character,” Mikels said. “I had to learn a new way of acting to play it. Everything from the way I walked to my voice had to be different than anything I’ve ever done.

Mikels said he was grateful for the support of his mother and the guidance of teachers Joe Harris, Gretchen Plummer and Cece Conrath.

Mikels will represent Georgia at the National High School Musical Theater Awards, commonly known as the Jimmy Awards. The virtual awards ceremony will take place on July 15.

Mikels said he had no plans to major in drama in college, but could choose it as a minor. The student said he wanted to keep his degree options open and focus on a career in dubbing for cartoons and games.

On stage, Mikels said he enjoys feeling the reactions of the audience, especially when they are laughing. He said he couldn’t determine why he enjoyed playing, but it’s something he will continue to cherish.

“There really is no particular reason. I just thought it was really fun, ”he said.

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