Born and raised in Milledgeville, Ontario Williams spent his high school days performing in musicals, choir and straight plays inside the Baldwin High School Fine Arts Center. Now, he has dreams of showcasing his talent on some of the world’s most famous stages on Broadway.
A recent routine scroll through Facebook showed Williams, a senior music education major at Augusta University, a way that could move his career in that direction — Broadway’s Next On Stage singing competition. Now, the BHS Class of ’15 alum is among the top-30 collegiate performers in the online competition sponsored by BroadwayWorld.
The 23-year-old Williams needs votes to advance into the top-15. From that point on, the competition will be in the judges’ hands. BroadwayWorld will donate $1,000 to a charity of the winner’s choice in their name, and the last performer standing also gets to record a single for Broadway Records, giving the exposure young performers desperately need to get their careers off the ground.
Williams hasn’t always known he wanted to step out onto the big stages in New York. He jumped into the performing arts as an Oak Hill seventh-grader after seeing how much fun his brother was having singing and acting in Baldwin High’s production of “Beauty and the Beast.” Once he made his leap, choir teacher Kathy Carroll and theatre director Anna Brock helped him hone his skills. His love of theatre and performance guided him to music education as a college major, and he first thought he would spend his professional life teaching choir in public schools. He told The Union-Recorder Monday, though, that his confidence in his voice has grown through multiple performances in the last couple of years, so he would like to give on- or off-Broadway a try once he completes his education.
The Next On Stage competition is one avenue that could help him get his foot in that all-important stage door.
“Ultimately the competition is for charity and exposure,” Williams said. “The industry is about who you know. Any way an artist can get their name out there and perform for different people, the more likely they are to have a chance to get in the door either on- or off-Broadway.”
The first round of the Next On Stage competition was open to any college student who wanted to send in video of themselves performing a musical theatre number (Williams went with “Stars” from “Les Miserables”). The public decided who made the top-30, and Williams said waiting to hear his name called was a nerve-wracking experience. More than 20 names had been announced on the livestream before he heard his own.
“I was shocked, honestly,” he said. “They got to No. 20 and hadn’t said my name yet. I think I wound up as contestant No. 23. I immediately started screaming to my roommates telling them I made it to the top-30. They all came in and were real happy for me. It was amazing and reassuring for sure. I was glad to have people behind me and supporting my journey as I go down this career path.”
The contestants will be whittled down to 15, 10, five and three before the season finale on Nov. 13. But first things first, Williams needs to get into the top 15, which will be announced online Friday. The public has until 11:59 p.m. Thursday to vote. To watch Williams’ performance and vote for the local product, visit www.broadwayworld.com/nextonstage/ontario-williams.