Wed 1 Mar 2017

Music Theatre International (Europe), one of the world’s leading theatrical licensing agencies, is proud to announce the Inaugural Junior Theatre Celebration (JTC), to be held at Curve on Sunday, 12 March.

The day-long programme will feature schools and youth groups from across the UK and Ireland, with performers ranging in age from 7 to 18, presenting excerpts from specially-created Broadway Junior™ shows for adjudication, and will include: Guys & Dolls, Hairspray, Once on This Island, Disney‘s The Little Mermaid and Aladdin, and more. Participants will also enjoy an afternoon Q&A with special guest Joanne Clifton (winner of this year’s Strictly Come Dancing, and star of the current UK tour of Thoroughly Modern Millie); workshops presented by teaching artists from the West End productions of Disney’s The Lion King, Matilda and Wicked; and an evening concert of musical theatre standards performed by West End stars.

Conceived in 1996 by Music Theatre International CEO Freddie Gershon, Broadway Junior™ musicals are condensed, author-approved versions of classic musicals, Disney favourites, and modern works, custom-tailored to the needs of young people and schools. Developed by renowned educators and designed to suit school assemblies as well as the energies and attention spans of younger performers, Broadway Junior™ musicals are perfect for teachers or directors who are new to musical theatre and seeking to introduce students to the joys of participating in a show.  Bringing different groups together to share their Broadway Junior™ experiences has led to annual Junior Theatre Celebrations across the USA and Australia and now, the UK.

Stephen Sondheim‘s song Children Will Listen, from Into the Woods, underscores the vital dynamic between children and adults. Appropriately, it was Mr. Sondheim who served as the catalyst for Broadway Junior™, according to Freddie Gershon. “Steve expressed concern for the future, and the need for young people to be engaged in live musical theatre, and he wanted to be sure that musicals would continue to cultivate vibrant new audiences,” recalls Gershon. “He inspired me, and I started thinking about today’s children being bombarded on all sides in this digital age, and also about the many underserved communities across the USA, and around the world, where arts programmes are no longer provided.  I thought about the fact that kids from 14 to 18 could put on shows in schools, but their younger brothers and sisters had no such outlet. Creating a Broadway Junior™ version would be the equivalent of our baseball ‘Little League’ in America, or soccer camps for young kids. From the start, it was clear we had tapped into something, as our Broadway Junior™ titles were embraced by parents, teachers and students.”

Continued Gershon, “Developments emerged that I could never have predicted:  not only did young people get the courage to go up on the stage, learn about singing, dancing, acting and telling a story through the arts, but they were immersed in experiential learning, became a functional community of their own, learned how to interact with each other with mutuality of respect, worked collaboratively and collegially. The totality of the program has already impacted millions of students around the world, and has produced educational opportunities for educators and musical theatre teachers as a learning experience.

Broadway Junior™ titles are developed by MTI in association with the skilled team at iTheatrics in New York City. Among the MTI titles available in Broadway Junior™ formats are such classics as:   Annie, Fiddler on the Roof, Guys & Dolls, Hairspray, Honk!, Into the Woods, The Music Man, Once on This Island, Seussical, Shrek, Singin’ in the Rain, Thoroughly Modern Millie, Xanadu, and Disney’s Aladdin, Beauty and the Beast, The Lion King, and The Little Mermaid, among others. Started in America, Broadway Junior™ is also proving to be popular with schools and youth groups across the UK and Europe, and recently earned the Best Musical Theatre Education Resource prize, sponsored by the Schools Printed Music Licence, at this year’s UK Music Teacher Awards.

Music Theatre International has long been proud of its initiatives to bring musicals and students closer together.  MTI’s innovations have included not only the creation of the Broadway Junior™ and Broadway Kids series, but also specially-created School Editions of such musicals as Les Misérables, Rent, Sweeney Todd, and Miss Saigon, as well as breaking with tradition by arranging for schools to perform these musicals simultaneous with their Broadway or West End productions.

Participating groups will spend the first half of the day presenting scenes from their Broadway Junior™ productions in front of fellow guests and a specially-selected panel of Adjudicators, including directors Lotte Wakeham, Steven Dexter, and Racky Plews, as well as iTheatrics’ founder Timothy Allen McDonald and colleagues Steven G. Kennedy and Marty Johnson.

Among the afternoon activities will be interactive workshops with teaching artists from the West End productions of Disney’s The Lion King, Matilda and Wicked. (See below).  Also highlighted will be a special Questions & Answer segment with Joanne Clifton, winner of the latest edition of Strictly Come Dancing, now touring the UK in the title role of Thoroughly Modern Millie.

The day-long event will conclude with an Awards Ceremony and Showcase on Sunday evening, a performance by a group of “All-Star” singers and dancers selected that day, and a concert of Broadway and West End standards, performed by West End stars Liam Doyle (Wicked, Mamma Mia!), Sophie Linder-Lee (Wicked, Mamma Mia!), Sam Lupton (Little Shop of Horrors, Starting Here, Starting Now) and Kayleigh McKnight (Les Misérables, Bend It Like Beckham) lead by Musical Director Kris Rawlinson.