A thundering chorus of 3,000+ Broadway stars, students and teachers will lock step and raise their voices and hearts in song during the 2012 Junior Theater Festival, a monumental celebration of on-stage and backstage excellence happening January 13 - 15, 2012 in Atlanta, GA, it was announced today by Theater of the Stars president Nick Manos and Timothy Allen McDonald, founding chairman of iTheatrics. Presented by New York's iTheatrics and Atlanta's Theater of the Stars and sponsored by leading theatrical licensor Music Theatre International (MTI), Disney Musicals and NBC, the Junior Theater Festival is the world's largest musical theater festival dedicated to groups working with elementary school, middle school and high school aged students.
"We believe it is important to celebrate and nurture opportunities for kids to participate in musical theater as an outlet to discover their interests and talents at an essential time in their personal development," says Manos. "The festival and its related activities provide an exciting way to share their participation with a wider audience and to deepen the kids' understanding and appreciation of musical theater."
"Study after study affirms that students who participate in the arts test higher academically, are better citizens, and are better problem solvers. The Junior Theater Festival encourages young artists to express their creativity and collaborate with people of all ages and backgrounds by staging student-driven musical theater in their community," adds McDonald.
Award winning Annie creators Thomas Meehan, Charles Strouse and Martin Charnin will travel to the festival to accept the 2012 Junior Theater Festival Award recognizing their contributions toward the advancement of musical theater for young people. In 1995, MTI Chairman Freddie Gershon partnered with Meehan, Strouse and Charnin to premiere Annie JR., which launched Broadway Junior, the first educational division in a major musical theater licensing firm, which over the past 16 years has transformed the marketplace for age-appropriate performance material for young performers.
"Tom Meehan, Charles Strouse and Martin Charnin are some of the initial musical theatre authors who supported MTI's efforts to create versions of shows to be performed by grade school students. They were concerned that the next generation of potential theatre lovers was being lost to budget cuts and video games, and they knew the answer was in teachers and students. Since that first performance of Annie JR. in 1998, millions of young people and their teachers have proven them right, and the culture and expectations of communities around the USA have forever been changed," says Gershon.
Beginning in 2010, the festival has paid tribute to the leadership and dedication of Freddie Gershon who conceived the junior musical in 1994 by renaming its student awards for excellence in theater "The Freddie G's."
Disney Musicals will sponsor the Saturday, January 14th New Works Showcase in which six Junior Theater Festival groups will perform new musicals for all attendees which will soon be made available for licensing by MTI. Boothbay Region YMCA in Boothbay, ME will present selections from Disney's Peter Pan JR.; Jeter Backyard Theater in Gibsonia, PA will present Dinosaurs Before Dark KIDS - A Magic Tree House Musical; Academy of Theater Arts in Williamsville, NY will perform Disney's My Son Pinocchio JR.; Jefferson Performing Arts Center (JPAS) KIDS, in New Orleans, LA will perform Meredith Willson's The Music Man KIDS; BATAVA in League City, TX will present Dr. Dolittle JR., and Gwendolyn Brooks Middle School, Oak Park, IL will perform Finian's Rainbow JR.
Through its partnership with MTI, Disney Theatrical Group has released educational stage versions of popular Broadway shows, animated features and live-action movies including: 101 Dalmatians, Elton John and Tim Rice's AIDA, Aladdin, Alice in Wonderland, The Aristocats, Beauty and the Beast, Camp Rock, Cinderella, High School Musical, High School Musical 2, The Jungle Book, The Little Mermaid, Mulan, Sleeping Beauty, Tarzan and Winnie the Pooh. More stage adaptations are in development and will be licensed exclusively through MTI.