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Ava Jones takes center stage in the Homewood-Flossmoor High School production of “Mama Mia!” (Provided photo)

Ava Jones was named one of the 12 outstanding high school actresses from Illinois by the Broadway in Chicago Illinois High School Musical Theatre Awards.

The Flossmoor resident will be a student at New York University majoring in communications and vocal performance. Her ultimate goal is to work on Broadway.

“I think just performing in general is my thing,” she said.

Ava Jones

The May 2020 Homewood-Flossmoor High School graduate was selected for the Broadway in Chicago award for her lead role as Donna Sheridan in the musical “Mama Mia!” 

The story revolves around Sheridan, a hotelier in the Greek Isles, and her daughter, who is about to marry. The daughter doesn’t know who her father is, so she invites three men from her mother’s past to learn which one will walk her down the aisle. The musical uses songs from the band ABBA.

Judges watched Jones perform in the fall musical to assess her talents. While this award usually involves a further competition and performance in Chicago to determine who will compete in New York, this was the final step of this year’s competition due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Jones said the role of Donna Sheridan was one of three major roles she had through the H-F theater program. She starred as Cinderella in the production “Into the Woods,” and as lead character Roxie Hart, the 23-year-old woman accused of murdering her husband, in the musical “Chicago.”  

Jones says it was through the H-F Summer Theatre program, directed by teacher Jill Bonavia-Galligani, that she found her passion. She’s been at it ever since appearing in H-F musicals and plays.

Ava Jones, portraying Donna Sheridan in the musical “Mama Mia!” Her performance won her recognition as  one of 12 outstanding high school students from Illinois by the Broadway in Chicago Illinois High School Musical Theater Awards. (Provided photo)

“I really do believe that when I did summer theater for the first time when I was 10 years old, if (Bonavia) wasn’t so kind and warm and encouraging, if she hadn’t made that experience so positive, I don’t even know if I would still be doing theater. I give her a lot of credit for making me fall in love with performing. She’s awesome,” Jones said.

She admits there’s a kind of adrenaline rush she feels from walking on stage.

“I’ve been performing for a long time, so I don’t know if I get as nervous as much as I just get really excited to perform, and sometimes I’ll just get anxious butterflies but I think for the most part I just get really excited. I really enjoy performing, so I just get really excited to perform,” Jones said.

“I’m really, really excited just to train every day (in college). I think it’s why I’m so excited for New York because I just want to train all the time and I just want to become awesome,” the actress said. 

“I really do just want to get better at what I’m doing,” Jones explained. Broadway is the goal “but any sort of performing that I can do and working in theater would really just be a dream come true,” she added.

At H-F, Jones, the daughter of Elizabeth Carrick and Lawrence Jones, also was a member of the H-F speech team, was a soprano with the Viking Choir and Viking Ensemble vocal groups, and during her senior year was co-president of H-F’s chapter of the International Thespian Society. 

This is the third time an H-F student has been selected for the Broadway in Chicago honor. Last year’s winner, Jaira Stanley, now a student at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, was honored for her role in “Chicago” and Joy Woods, the 2018 winner, was selected for her role in “Sister Act.” She is working as a professional actress in New York.

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