NEW YORK – Oscar® and Tony Award®-winning composer Alan Menken, director Jeff Calhoun and producer Thomas Schumacher, join Kara Lindsay, Andrew Keenan-Bolger and Mike Faist, stars of the Tony® award-winning Broadway musical, Newsies, for a special presentation to 4,000 students and teachers representing 82 groups from 23 states at the 2013 Junior Theater Festival, it was announced today by Theater of the Stars President Nick Manos and Timothy Allen McDonald, founding Chairman of iTheatrics. The Junior Theater Festival is being held January 18, 19 and 20 at the Cobb Galleria in Atlanta.
Additional Junior Theater Festival celebrity guests include Music Theatre International (MTI) CEO Freddie Gershon, a 2012 Tony® Honor recipient for Excellence in the Theatre; actors Skylar Astin (“Pitch Perfect”, Spring Awakening) and Briga Heelan (“Cougar Town”), both of whom performed at the Junior Theater Festival as students; Jacob Brent (Cats, Broadway); performer and author Tim Federle (The Little Mermaid, Better Nate Than Ever); Tony®-nominated scenic designer Tobin Ost (Newsies, Bonnie and Clyde), and Tony® award–winning lighting designer Ken Billington (Chicago).
The Junior Theater Festival is the world’s largest musical theater festival celebrating young people and the transformative power of musical theater. The festival is helmed by iTheatrics and Atlanta’s Theater of the Stars; this year’s title sponsors are Music Theatre International, Disney Theatrical Group, Playbill®, PRG (Production Resource Group), and Sound Associates.
“The Junior Theater Festival shines the spotlight on the people all over America who are creating student-driven musical theater in their community,” said McDonald of iTheatrics. “We celebrate their achievements, and offer students and teachers tools and experiences which will ensure their programs remain vital, sustainable and hopefully safe from elimination or cuts. Research has shown that young people who participate in the theater do better academically and socially. We hope that community by community, person by person, we can help build an America in which every child has access to the arts.”
“The Junior Theater Festival is a celebration of musical theater performed by kids in communities across America,” said Theater of the Stars President Manos. “For many of these students, the Festival is their first opportunity to perform for someone other than friends and family and is their introduction into the musical theater culture. Students are given direct access to Broadway artists and performers, and Broadway insiders engage directly with our audiences of the future,” he added. “The young people who attend the festival hold the future of Broadway in their hearts and minds.”
Alan Menken will be the 2013 recipient of the Junior Theater Festival Award, recognizing his contribution toward the advancement of musical theater for young people. Menken and Thomas Schumacher will offer a main stage presentation for all festival attendees.
Broadway performer Federle will host a book signing for his debut novel, Better Nate Than Ever (Simon & Schuster), which was recently named TIME Magazine For Kids’ featured winter book. Better Nate Than Ever—about a small-town teen who crashes an audition for E.T.: The Musical—was inspired by Tim’s time coaching the child stars of Billy Elliot on Broadway.
Disney Theatrical Group will sponsor the Saturday, January 19th New Works Showcase in which five Junior Theater Festival groups will perform new musicals that will soon be made available for licensing by MTI. Academy of Creative Excellence (Lexington, KY) will perform Xanadu JR., Gwendolyn Brooks Middle School (Oak Park, IL) will present Hairspray JR., Harris County Carver Middle School (Hamilton, GA) will present The Pirates of Penzance JR., PS 124 (New York, NY) will present Disney’s Aristocats KIDS, and Theater Under the Stars (Houston, TX) will present a dual language student version of Disney’s Aladdin.
Eight exceptional educators from schools and performing arts centers around the country will be selected for the fourth annual “The Freddie G Broadway Experience,” in which the teachers will receive an all-expense paid trip to New York City to collaborate with each other and work one-on-one with Broadway greats. The event is sponsored by MTI’s Freddie (“G”) Gershon and his wife Myrna Gershon and is a thank you for all that teachers do to introduce the next generation to Broadway and musical theater.
MTI CEO Freddie Gershon conceived the junior musical in 1994 with nearly 300,000 performances since its inception. Beginning in 2010, the festival has paid tribute to his leadership and dedication by renaming its student awards for excellence in theater “The Freddie G’s.”
The 2013 Junior Theater Festival offers an enthusiastic environment for students and teachers to interact with thousands of others who share their passion for musical theater. In addition to presenting a 15-minute selection from a musical, both students and teachers participate in interactive workshops led by Broadway and West End professionals, gain from professional development, enjoy theatrical fellowship, and will attend a professional production of Blue Man Group at the fabulous Fox Theatre. In true Junior Theater Festival form, student technicians work side-by-side with festival staff in running all aspects of the festival experience.
The Junior Theater Festival was founded in 2003. In 2010 the Festival became an annual event.
While the Junior Theater Festival is not about creating the stars of tomorrow, many of the stars of today have played a role. Past festival attendees have included actor Zac Efron, Stephen Schwartz (Godspell, Pippin, Wicked), four-time Tony-nominated composer Jeanine Tesori (Thoroughly Modern Millie, Shrek the Musical), Broadway director Kenny Leon (Fences, A Raisin in the Sun, The Mountaintop), and Playbill columnist and “Talkin’ Broadway” radio host Seth Rudetsky.