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Star search: Nick Daly wins Playbill contest
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Star search: Nick Daly wins Playbill contest


You don’t have to tell local theater fans that Nick Daly is a star.

The Bradford High School graduate — who is studying musical theater at the University of Michigan — performed in several shows during high school.

And earlier.

His interest in theater started when, as a fifth-grader, he saw “Tarzan” at Bradford. That prompted him to try out and get a role in “Captain Louie” at Kenosha’s Lakeside Players community theater troupe.

He’s been doing theater ever since, and now he’s won Playbill’s “Search for a Star” contest.

Daly is the grand prize winner of the contest, which had 2,658 submissions for Playbill, the theater magazine familiar to anyone who’s been at a professional stage production.

Here’s how it worked: Contestants submitted videos of themselves over a four-week period, and a panel of judges named the Top 10 competitors.

Then, for one week, the public voted for their favorite out of the Top 10: Daly came out on top.

More than 16,000 votes were cast.

Daly has won:

A one-on-one casting consultation with the casting office of Stewart/Whitley.

A one-on-one work session with Tony Award-winning director-choreographer Susan Stroman, whose credits include the Broadway smash “The Producers.”

A Limitless Class Package from The Growing Studio, which is an all-access opportunity to work with musical theater and TV/film industry professionals online.

A guest appearance (interview and performance) on Playbill Live!

A headshot photo shoot with Playbill’s staff photographer.

A pair of tickets to a Broadway show when shows reopen.

To see Daly’s winning performance, go to Videos of all the Top 10 finalists, and 30 other semi-finalists, are available on Playbill’s website.

In his video for the contest, Daly sang “I’m Not Afraid of Anything” from the musical “Songs For A New World.”


high school career

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Daly started performing in Kenosha Unified School District theater productions in eighth grade. As a “Today’s Teen” for the Kenosha News in May of 2019, he said performing as Quasimodo in “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” was the role that made him realize “theater is my passion.”

His roles also included the musical “Children of Eden” in October of 2018. For that show, Daly won an Outstanding Supporting Performance Jerry Award for his role as Cain in the two-act musical written by Stephen Schwartz of “Wicked” fame. The Jerry Awards recognize Wisconsin’s top high school productions.

Daly was also one of 12 cast members in the tricky “In Transit” musical in February of 2019. As an a cappella show, all of the show’s music, including the percussion, was performed live by the actors.

As a cast member of “Freaky Friday,” in February 2018, he got to work with Disney Channel professionals when the local production — a world premiere for Disney Theatrical’s high school shows — was performed in June at the International Thespian Festival at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

‘Hamilton’ visit

Also in February of 2018, Daly — with fellow Bradford students Ben Woods and Connor Cameron — was chosen to perform an original, three-minute act in front of several cast members of the Broadway touring production of “Hamilton” in Chicago’s CIBC Theatre.

Daly, Woods and Cameron performed “Fire!,” a short, powerful piece recounting the lives of Crispus Attucks, Samuel Gray and James Caldwell during the Boston Massacre. Bradford was one of 12 high schools selected to participate in the Hamilton Education Program.

Students made video clips of original work they created in their classroom studies — songs, rap, poetry, scenes, monologues — and submitted them to the “Hamilton” cast and staff. As one of the chosen performances, two buses filled with Bradford students were able to see the matinee performance that day for just $10.

His final high school show was “The Scottsboro Boys,” in May of 2019 at Bradford.

During a rehearsal break for “Scottsboro,” he said the end of his high school career was “bittersweet.”

That show, he said, “is a challenging, exciting role. It’s a really important story, and we’re the first high school to do this show. We also piloted ‘Little Mermaid’ and ‘Freaky Friday’; it’s great all the shows I’ve been in during high school.”

He said he hopes to become a professional actor after college for more than just the love of being on stage.

“Theater is one of the most important tools for creating change in our society. As an actor, you literally step into someone else’s shoes, which creates empathy,” he said. “I’ve been blessed to have been in so many great shows.”

On ‘Playbill Live’

Daly was featured at 11 a.m. Sept. 4 on “Playbill Live” on YouTube, with hosts Mark Peikert and Felicia Fitzpatrick.

Fitzpatrick promised to “gush over him,” and Peikert said he’s one of the few (perhaps the only) person invited to sing on their show. They also congratulated him for being “TikTok famous.”

Daly, who was Zooming into the live show from his voice teacher’s house in Ann Arbor, Mich., sang “Lost in the Wilderness” from “Children of Eden.” He said the song feels especially timely now.

Fitzpatrick teased him about “living the TikTok influencer life,” but Daly joked that he wishes it “paid the bills.”

He started making TikTok content, he said, just to have someplace to perform, adding that at age 19, he was afraid he’s too old for TikTok.

At the end of the “Playbill Live” episode, Daly took a second to wish his mother, Pamela, a happy birthday.

You can find Daly on Instagram and TikTok, where he uses the same handle, Nick_t_daly.


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