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Midland student wins national performance prize on Broadway

Gretchen Shope (R) of Midland, with Wharton Center Executive Director Eric Olmscheid. Shope won the Wharton Center's Sutton Foster Award on her way to earning Broadway's Jimmy Award.
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Wharton Center
Gretchen Shope (R) of Midland, with Wharton Center Executive Director Eric Olmscheid. Shope won the Wharton Center's Sutton Foster Award on her way to earning Broadway's Jimmy Award.

A recent high school graduate from Midland, Michigan, has won a national performance competition on Broadway.

Gretchen Shope’s rendition of The Music That Makes Me Dance from Funny Girl earned her the top prize at Broadway’s National High School Music Theatre Awards, known as the Jimmy Awards, this week.

She had earlier won a Sutton Foster Award at Michigan State University’s Wharton Center for the right to compete in the Big Apple.

Shope described herself as plus-sized, and said she identifies with the Fanny Brice character in Funny Girl because she isn’t the conventional leading lady type.

“I think that I can inspire other people now that I’m here,” Shope told WKAR. “I want to continue that journey and continue inspiring those people.”

For now, that journey includes using the $25,000 scholarship she earned to double major in musical theatre and marketing at Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio.

She said she’s open, though, to opportunities that might arise.

“I don’t know if in two years the spot on Broadway or a spot on a tour will still be available for me to take,” Shope said. “Depending on what it is, and if it happens, and if what is offered to me is exciting and creatively fulfilling for me, then I might have a different five-year plan, and that’s OK.”

Fans have a chance to see Gretchen Shope perform next month. She’s preparing to play Johanna in Sweeney Todd with the Bay City Playersin late July.

Scott Pohl has maintained an on-call schedule reporting for WKAR following his retirement after 36 years on the air at the station.
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