Students from Plaza Academy in Cleburne won a Freddie G Excellence in Dance award and students Ohlook Performing Arts in Grapevine earned high praise at the 2017 iTheatrics Junior Theater Festival Atlanta, which happened January 13, 14 and 15 at the Cobb Galleria Centre in Atlanta, GA. Next month, Preston Center Dance, based in Dallas, will travel to the iTheatrics Junior Theater Festival West, which will happen February 10-12 in Sacramento, CA.
“Excellence in Dance – Plaza Academy” from left: music director and performer Brad Simmons (Camp, Broadway’s Lysistrata Jones), student Nolan Moralez, educator Tabitha Ibarra, Cindy Ripley, educational consultant for iTheatrics, MTI Show Support advisor and member of the 2005 USA Today All Star Teaching team.
All Photos by: James Barker
Local Students made the Broadway Jr. Scout Call-Back
Plaza Academy’s David Midkiff, Eden Barrus, Emma Colwell and Nolan Moralez and Ohlook Performing Arts’ Brooklyn Biddle, Reilly Buckley, Michael Mazey and Katy Popovitch were eight of 142 students who made it to the call-back for future Broadway Junior shoots for “how-to” choreography videos for soon-to-be released Broadway Junior musicals. The shoots will be taped in New York City this summer. The Broadway Junior scouts were on the lookout for outstanding students, out of 5,800 students at the festival, 500 were invited to audition for iTheatrics resident choreographer Steven G. Kennedy. The final cast will be determined later this year. These videos will be used in tens of thousands of schools across the country and internationally.
Plaza Academy Students
The Plaza Academy students presented selections from Seussical JR. for composer, director, producer and music director David Weinstein (The Musical Adventures of Flat Stanley, Roald Dahl's James and the Giant Peach) and Kennedy Center director Deirdre Kelly Lavrakas (Walking in the Winds: American Tales and Walking in the Winds: Arabian Tales – a co-production with the Performing Arts Center of Amman, Jordan), who directed two musical theatre reviews for a state department tour of South Asia and has led drama workshops for teachers and students in Bahrain.
Said Deirdre Kelly Lavrakas, “The Plaza Academy cast delighted us with their professional excerpt of Seussical JR. All the elements were fully realized.”
The Plaza Academy students at the 2017 iTheatrics Junior Theater Festival
The students are Mia Balderas, Eden Barrus, Mimi Barrus, Emma Colwell, Kenlie Earheart, Amanda Foster, Emily Kocur, Nadya Leduc, Taia Mayre, Lily McClendon, Josh McLemore, David Midkiff, Mignon Miller, Lena Moralez, Rylee Mullen, Hannah Nickerson, Angie Patrick, Hunter Patrick, William Power, Jacob Renfroe, Nathan Salter, Emmie Vaughn and Marissa Wheat.
Ohlook Performing Arts Students
The Ohlook Performing Arts students, presented selections from Legally Blonde JR. for musical director Derek Bowley (Kennedy Center tour and premiere of The Phantom Tollbooth, world premiere of The Trumpet of the Swan at the Kennedy Center); Jen Katona, lecturer and director of The City College of New York's graduate program in educational theatre and recipient of the American Alliance for Theatre and Education's Lin Wright Special Recognition Award, and Director of the Licensing and Hire Department at Hal Leonard Australia, Stuart Hendricks.
Said Katona, “This show requires a lot of energy and this cast brought it with beautiful acting by Andrew Smith.” Derek Bowley added, “The performers started with a bang and kept the energy high throughout the entire presentation. Their strong voices carried the upbeat score with power.”
The Ohlook Performing Arts students at the 2017 iTheatrics Junior Theater Festival
The students who traveled to the 2017 iTheatrics Junior Theater Festival Atlanta on behalf of Ohlook Performing Arts are Santiago Arenas, Brooklyn Biddle, Remelee Bivin, Reilly Buckley, Anna Grace Crawford, Michelle D’Amico, Samantha DeSimone, Tim DeSimone, Megan Droste, Ella Eavenson, Sydney Fraser, Alyssa Ihle, Breanne Jackson, Jackson Layton, Chloe Lopez, Grace Lord, Michael Mazey, Macy McCready, Maddie Nelson, Katy Pop, Catie Pratt, Emmy Pratt, Sally Shaw, Andrew Smith, Julia Sutter, Charlotte Sweeney, Kale Thompson, Will Thompson, Trevor Turnbow, Madilyn Grace Weems and Lauren Williams.
Junior Theater Festival All-Stars
Plaza Academy’s Nathan Salter and Emma Colwell and Ohlook Performing Arts’ Jackson Layton and Megan Droste were named to the Junior Theater Festival All-Stars, made up of outstanding performers attending the festival. The All-Stars performed a song during the closing ceremony for all 6,000 festival attendees.
Produced by the Junior Theater Group in partnership with iTheatrics, a leading educational theater company that creates innovative experiences and products for the public and private sector, the iTheatrics Junior Theater Festival Atlanta is the world’s largest festival celebrating young people and the transformative power of musical theater. This year’s title sponsors were Music Theatre International, Disney Theatrical Group, and Playbill, Inc®.
The Junior Theater Festival was founded in 2003. In 2010 the festival became an annual event.
Disney Theatrical President Thomas Schumacher; Broadway director, choreographer, producer and dancer Jeff Calhoun (Bonnie & Clyde, Newsies); Broadway choreographer, director and performer Christopher Gattelli (South Pacific, Newsies); composer Zina Goldrich & lyricist Marcy Heisler (Junie B. Jones, Dear Edwina); Arielle Jacobs (Wicked, Disney’s Aladdin in Sydney), Curt Hansen (Broadway’s Hairspray!, Wicked national tour), Luca Padovan (Broadway’s School of Rock, Broadway’s Newsies), and New York Times best-selling authors Jodi Picoult (Small Great Things) and Mary Pope Osborne (The Magic Treehouse Series) were some of the celebrities at the festival cheering them on.
About Plaza Academy
Plaza Academy is Plaza Theatre Company's fine arts education program. Its Academy offers a variety of fine art disciplines for youth ages 3 to 18. The students who traveled to the 2017 iTheatrics Junior Theater Festival Atlanta on behalf of Plaza Academy are Mia Balderas, Eden Barrus, Mimi Barrus, Emma Colwell, Kenlie Earheart, Amanda Foster, Emily Kocur, Nadya Leduc, Taia Mayre, Lily McClendon, Josh McLemore, David Midkiff, Mignon Miller, Lena Moralez, Rylee Mullen, Hannah Nickerson, Angie Patrick, Hunter Patrick, William Power, Jacob Renfroe, Nathan Salter, Emmie Vaughn and Marissa Wheat.
About Ohlook Performing Arts
Ohlook Performing Arts Center is not about competition or who’s the best but about opportunity and giving everyone a chance to express themselves in a positive, caring environment.
Ohlook Performing Arts Center has earned success at past Junior Theater Festivals. At the 2016 Junior Theatre Festival Ohlook Performing Arts Center won a Freddie G Outstanding Production award, Ohlook Performing Arts Center student Emma Lord received a Freddie G All Festival Performance by a Female Award, given to only one female at the festival, and Ohlook Performing Arts student Matthew D. Vinson received a Freddie G Broadway Junior Slam Award. (The Broadway Junior Slam is a theatrical challenge in which students and teachers who don’t know each other must stage and perform a song from a musical in an hour.) Also in 2016, Ohlook Performing Arts Center teacher Jill Lord was one of six teachers selected for the Freddie G Fellowship which recognizes the exceptional contributions to arts education. The teachers received all-expense paid trip to New York City, complete with professional development, Broadway performances and unforgettable celebrations as well as $5,000 from Freddie and Myrna Gershon to enhance their arts program. As one of just eight schools from across the country to win a Freddie G Outstanding Production Award, the Ohlook Performing Arts Center students performed a song from their Xanadu JR. production for all 5,800+ attendees.
Additionally, Ohlook student Alyssa Ihle made it to the call-back for future Broadway Junior shoots for “how-to” choreography videos for soon-to-be released Broadway Junior musicals. At the 2015 Junior Theater Festival, the students won a Freddie G Outstanding Ensemble award and student Colton Hess won a Freddie G Outstanding Individual Male Performance. Additionally, students Matthew Vinson, Grace Lord, Andrew Smith, and Colton Hess made it to the final call-back for future Broadway Junior shoots for “how-to” choreography videos for Broadway Junior musicals. Ohlook Performing Arts Center was one of four educational musical theater groups across the nation to perform as part of the New Works Showcase. The students performed selections from Singin’ in the Rain JR. for all 4,500 festival attendees. In 2014 the group won a Freddie G Outstanding Ensemble award and student Colton Hess won a Freddie G Outstanding Individual Male Performance.
Students Matthew Vinson, Grace Lord, Andrew Smith, and Colton Hess made it to the final call-back for future Broadway Junior shoots for “how-to” choreography videos for Broadway Junior musicals. At the 2013 Junior Theater Festival, students won a Freddie G Outstanding Ensemble award. In addition, student Colton Hess won a Freddie G Outstanding Individual Male Performance award, students Andrew Smith and Tanner Terrell made it to the final call-back for a Broadway Junior “how-to” choreography video shoot for Broadway Junior musicals, and Andrew traveled to New York City to be part of the taping. In 2012 the group earned a Freddie G Outstanding Achievement in Dance award.
Additionally, cast members Emma Lord, Hannah Pierce, and Andrew Smith made it to the final casting call-back for future Broadway Junior shoots for “how-to” choreography videos for musicals. Ultimately, Andrew was among the young performers selected and traveled to New York City in summer 2012 to tape the instructional DVDs. At the 2011 Junior Theater Festival the group won a Freddie G Outstanding Achievement in Acting Award, and student Madi Bready won a Freddie G Outstanding Female Performer award.