Monday, February 19, 2018

Hammond students win awards at 2018 Junior Theatre Festival

Posted: Thursday, January 18, 2018 | Views: 580

Hammond students win awards at 2018 Junior Theatre Festival
ATLANTA---Students from Acting Upon Faith Productions and Spirit of the Stage in Hammond won national awards and earned recognition at the 2018 Junior Theater Festival Atlanta, which happened January 12-14, 2018 at the Cobb Galleria Centre in Atlanta, GA.

The Junior Theater Festival Atlanta united 6,000+ students and educators from 130 educational musical theater groups representing 30 U.S. states, the District of Columbia, Australia, New Zealand, and Canada.

Acting Upon Faith Productions won a Freddie G award for Excellence in Dance.

Spirit of the Stage won a Freddie G Award for Excellence in Music and Spirit of the Stage’s Elizabeth Mollega won a Freddie G award for Excellent Individual Performance by a Female.

The 19 Acting Upon Faith Productions students, ages 12-18, presented selections from Singin' in the Rain JR. for performer Carol Worcel (1st National Broadway Tours of 42nd Street and Anything Goes) and music director, teacher, and vocal coach Bill Newberry (Les Misérables, Sound of Music, Annie).

Newberry said, “What a charming and wonderfully performed production! Their energy and music and dance skills made this one of the top shows I saw this year.”

The 39 Spirit of the Stage students, ages 10-14, presented selections from Disney's Beauty and the Beast JR. for Michael Bobbit, producing artistic director at Adventure Theatre MTC and educator Julia Magnasco (TYA/USA Board Member and adjunct staff member at UW-Milwaukee and Carroll University).

Said Magnasco, “The Spirit of the Stage cast did an outstanding job developing characters - their relationships were very clear and the actors’ faces and bodies were connected. They had incredibly rich vocals. The song ‘Beauty and the Beast’ was executed well, with incredible dynamics and dancing.” Added Bobbit, “These voices will ring out loudly, and will be starring on Broadway really soon!”

Acting Upon Faith Productions’ Niccolo Bonura and Olivia Lowentritt and Spirit of the Stage’s Damien Wootan and Kamryn Hecker 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 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.

About Acting Upon Faith Productions

Acting Upon Faith Productions is a performing arts academy under the guidance of First Presbyterian Church. Programs are in a Christian, spiritually-led environment and include lessons, musicals, and recitals.

The group has enjoyed considerable success at past Junior Theater Festivals. At the 2017 Junior Theater Festival Acting Upon Faith students Olivia Lowentritt and Rachael Knaps were two 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. These videos will be used in tens of thousands of schools across the country and internationally.

About Spirit of the Stage

The Spirit of the Stage 2018 Junior Theater Festival Atlanta team was led by director Suzanne Gautier and assistants Joell Jones and Nancy Heck.

The group has enjoyed success at past Junior Theater Festivals. Below are highlights of its achievements over the years.

At the 2017 Junior Theater Festival Spirit of the Stage won a Freddie G Group Award for Excellence in Dance and Spirit of the Stage student Laine Lonero won a Freddie G Award for Excellent Individual Performance by a Female. Cade Garafola was chosen from hundreds of applicants to sing the National Anthem to all 6,000 attendees at the festival kickoff ceremonies.

Additionally, Madeleine Durnin was one 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. These videos will be used in tens of thousands of schools across the country and internationally.

In 2016 students from Spirit of the Stage won a Freddie G Excellence in Dance award and Suzanne Gautier was one of six teachers from across the nation who was selected for the Freddie G Fellowship. Additionally, Laine Lonero and Lizzie Zaffuto made it to the call-back for future Broadway Junior shoots for “how-to” choreography videos for soon-to-be released Broadway Junior musicals. Billie Guffey and Travis Settoon were chosen as All-stars for and performed in iTheatrics’ summer workshops in New York at the 2016 JTF.

In 2015, students won a Freddie G Award for Excellence in Music.

In 2014, students Olivia Lowentritt and Maya Bachemin were two of 141 festival attendees who made it to the final call-back for future Broadway Junior shoots for “how-to” choreography videos for soon-to-be released Broadway Junior musicals. These videos will be used in tens of thousands of schools across the country and internationally.

In 2013, the group won a Freddie G Outstanding Achievement in Dance award. Student Camille Bechac won a Freddie G Outstanding Individual Female Performance award, and students Alyssa Finch, Rachel Knaps, Raegan Dauthier, and Ellen Gambel won a Freddie G Outstanding Student Direction and Choreography award. Furthermore, student Darah Haidet made it to the final call-back for future Broadway Junior shoots for “how-to” choreography videos for future Broadway Junior musicals.

In 2012 students won a Freddie G Outstanding Achievement in Dance award. Students Shelby Jo Patti, Emily Owens, and Chloe Chauvin won a Freddie G Outstanding Achievement in Student Direction and Choreography award, and student Jacob Anthon received a Freddie G Broadway Junior Inspiration award, given to the student who best embodies the spirit of educational musical theater. Furthermore, student Alexis Theriot participated in a weeklong musical theater workshop conducted by iTheatrics. She landed the role of The Ladybug in James and the Giant Peach JR., which was then in development by Music Theatre International and iTheatrics.

In 2011 the group won a Freddie G Outstanding Achievement in Acting award. Additionally, that summer teacher Suzanne Gautier flew to New York City to take part in the iTheatrics’ Teacher’s Intensive Workshop, a weekend-long professional development series that takes teachers step by dance step through the process of staging a musical in their communities.

In 2010 student Connor Scott won the Freddie G Hardest Working Male award. In 2003, Spirit of the Stage won an Excellence in Acting award at the first Junior Theater Festival. The group also attended the Junior Theater Festival in 2009 and 2003. In 2005, The Spirit of the Stage began performing at the historic Columbia Theatre for the Performing Arts, thanks to the generous contributions and support of the Hammond community.

About the 2018 Junior Theater Festival Atlanta

The 2018 Junior Theater Festival Atlanta is a monumental weekend of theatrical fellowship rewarding and empowering student-driven musical theater programs.

Paul Williams (“The Muppet Movie,” “Evergreen,” Bugsy Malone, Emmet Otter’s Jug-band Christmas); Stephen Schwartz (Godspell, Pippin, Wicked); Luca Padovan (Broadway’s School of Rock, Broadway’s Newsies); Megan Hilty (“Smash!”, Braodway’s Wicked); New York Times best-selling authors Jodi Picoult (Small Great Things); Cass Morgan (Broadway’s Memphis: A New Musical, Broadway’s Mary Poppins); Katy Geraghty (Broadway’s Groundhog Day); Rob Rokicki (The Lightning Thief: The Percy Jackson Musical, off-Broadway, Miss Saigon, national tour); Isabella Russo (Broadway’s School of Rock, Hans Christian Andersen); Elyssa Samsel & Kate Anderson (“Olaf’s Frozen Adventure”) were some of the celebrities at the festival cheering on the students.

In addition to presenting selections from shows for adjudication, participants took part in interactive workshops led by Broadway and West End professionals, gained from professional development, watched outstanding performances by fellow students and Broadway stars and enjoyed theatrical fellowship.

Performer Megan Hilty returned as the festival’s headliner, performing in concert for all attendees.

One hundred students serenaded composer, performer, and songwriter Paul Williams (Bugsy Malone, “Evergreen,” “Rainy Days and Mondays,” “We’ve Only Just Begun,” “Rainbow Connection,” “The Muppet Movie,” Emmet Otter’s Jug-band Christmas), when he received the Junior Theater Festival Legacy Award. The award recognizes those individuals whose vision and artistry have shaped the minds and hearts of educational musical theatre students and audiences all around the globe.

Musical theatre lyricist and composer Stephen Schwartz introduced the new student edition of Children of Eden JR., presented by Inspiration Stage in Sugarland, TX, at the JTF Atlanta New Works Showcase where select groups perform songs from new or updated musicals that will soon be made available for licensing by Music Theatre International. Other showcase performances included Spotlight Theatre Productions (Sarasota, FL) presenting Disney’s Aladdin JR., and Gwendolyn Brooks Middle School (Oak Park, IL) presenting Chitty Chitty Bang Bang JR.

Luca Padovan (Newsies, School of Rock); Cass Morgan (Memphis: A New Musical, Mary Poppins); Katy Geraghty (Groundhog Day); Rob Rokicki (The Lightning Thief: The Percy Jackson Musical, off-Broadway, Miss Saigon, national tour); Morgan Siobhan (Between the Lines, Kansas City Rep); Isabella Russo (School of Rock, Hans Christian Andersen); Elyssa Samsel & Kate Anderson (Olaf’s Frozen Adventure; Between the Lines, Kansas City Rep); Brad Simmons (Lysistrata Jones, “Camp”), and New York Times best-selling author Jodi Picoult (Between the Lines, Kansas City Rep) will also appear at JTF Atlanta.

PHOTOS:
Pictured in Acting Upon Faith Productions Excellence in Dance is from left: Producing artistic director at Adventure Theatre MTC Michael Bobbit, Acting Upon Faith Productions’ Brent Goodrich, Acting Upon Faith Productions’ Mary Claire Hoover, Music Theatre International Australasia director Stuart Hendricks

Pictured in Spirit of the Stage Freddie G Excellence in Music is from left: New York Times best-selling author Jodi Picoult, Spirit of the Stage director Suzanne Gautier, Spirit of the Stage student Madison Sedberry, Songwriting team Kate Andersen & Elyssa Samsel

Credit for Photos James Barker Photography