The monumental weekend dedicated to rewarding and celebrating student-driven musical theater programs happened online and in-person January 14-16, 2022, in Atlanta. At the festival, each group performed 15 minutes of a Broadway Junior® musical for adjudicators.
Boothbay Region YMCA Y Arts students brought home a Freddie G award for Excellence in Acting. Y Arts students Sarah Harris, Sophia Mansfield, and Spencer Pottle made it to the callback for future video shoots for “how-to” choreography videos. Phoebe Cook and Emerson Harris were distinguished as All-Stars, an outstanding group of young performers at the festival.
This year, Boothbay Region YMCA: Y Arts traveled to Atlanta without their director (Emily Mirabile) as she is on parental leave. Three alumni - Noelle Timberlake, Kate Hilscher and Taylor Fish - stepped up to travel with the group in Mrs. Mirabile's place, leading them at the festival with care and fantastic energy. Also, traveling to the festival with the group was a middle school tech student, Ella Watts, who ran the sound in Mirabile’s place.
Y Arts presented “Madagascar - A Musical Adventure JR.” to Broadway actor Krystina Alabado (Gretchen Wieners in “Mean Girls,” “American Idiot”); Kenny Shepard (Professor, Musical Theatre and Dance Departments: Ball State and Anderson University and Choreographer for The Children's Museum's Lilly Theatre/Indianapolis), and Bradford Theatre educator and director Holly Stanfield (national student premieres of Aida School Edition, Thoroughly Modern Millie School Edition and Rent School Edition).
Alabado said, “This was SO MUCH FUN! It was electric, energetic, and joyful! Wow!” Shepard added, “This performance was a party and brought a collective smile to the audience. It was a driving, infectious, joyful show that full of life! Each animal was expertly played by this eager ensemble of talented performers.” Said Stanfield, “After their performance one of the young actors told us that they wanted their moment at JTF to feel like a party! Their party brought down the house! What an energetic and exciting moment it was in the room!”
The adjudicators also shared further thoughts about how the students' performance reflected on Y Arts:
Alabado said, “Boothbay used each individual student they had in beautifully detailed ways to show off their talents and ages! From the cute and hilarious penguins to the ferocious lions! Everyone was having a blast and hitting every picture spot on!”
Shepard added, “Student director, Emerson Harris and student choreographer, Phoebe Cook have developed important skills in storytelling from their mentors at Boothbay Region YMCA Y Arts. They are ahead of the game and beyond their years understanding well how staging and story-driven choreography engage the audience. This entire group is teamwork personified.”
Said Stanfield, “This presentation showed that this group of young actors is working hard on all three of the important skills needed to tell a musical theater story. They delivered a triple threat performance of Madagascar - A Musical Adventure JR.”
Called a “rousing celebration of theatre” by the New York Times, the Junior Theater Festival applauds and empowers young people and educators creating student-driven musical theater around the globe. The 2022 JTF Atlanta was an incredible and safe weekend of singing, dancing, acting, and learning. The festival worked with experts to modify the event to meet and exceed local, state, and federal safety guidelines. Festival policies included implementing mandatory masking and authenticating vaccinations or negative COVID test results for all attendees.
Tony Award winning actor Ali Stroker performed the headlining concert. Actors Tommy Bracco (Disney's Newsies: The Broadway Musical) and Kara Lindsay (Disney's Newsies: The Broadway Musical) took part in a special Newsies panel via video.
Additional talent appearing at the festival and cheering the young artists were actor Krystina Alabado (Mean Girls, Broadway), actor McKenna Michael Bisaha (Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer: The Musical tour), actor Katy Geraghty (Groundhog Day!, Broadway), actor Jake David Smith (Disney’s Frozen on Broadway), actor Daniel J. Mertzlufft (Ratatouille: The TikTok Musical), actor Luca Padovan (Disney's Newsies: The Broadway Musical), author and playwright Jodi Picoult (Wish You Were Here, Breathe), screenwriter, songwriter and novelist Dean Pitchford (Footloose, Broadway), music orchestrator Macy Schmidt (founder of The Broadway Sinfonietta), Michael Wordly (The Color Purple, US Tour), and actor Daniel Yearwood (Hamilton).
Groups enjoyed a New Works Showcase of performance selections from upcoming Broadway Junior® musicals presented by JTF groups, and other mainstage performances featuring powerhouse Broadway guests and took part in workshops.