Whitney Hale


College: Fine Arts

ACE Performers Invited to Junior Theater Festival

Published: Jan 18, 2013

LEXINGTON, Ky. (Jan. 18, 2012) — Youth from around the Bluegrass studying musical theatre at University of Kentucky Opera Theatre's Academy for Creative Excellence (ACE) have been invited to attend the 2013 Junior Theater Festival, the world’s largest musical theater festival dedicated to celebrating young people experiencing the transformative power of musical theater. UK's ACE students will perform and participate in the festival Jan. 18-20, in Atlanta, Ga.


Featuring 82 groups representing 23 states, the Junior Theater Festival is presented by iTheatrics and Theater of the Stars and is sponsored by Music Theatre International, Disney Musicals, Playbill, PRG (Production Resource Group) and Sound Associates. The festival brings together more than 3,500 students, teachers and Broadway professionals to raise their voices in celebration of on-stage and backstage excellence in musical theater. 


Each group attending the Junior Theater Festival performs a 15-minute selection of a musical for a panel of distinguished theater professionals. Thirty-four students representing ACE, ages 7 to 19, will present Disney’s "Beauty and the Beast JR." for adjudication. The panel evaluates each group’s music, acting, dance and overall performance. Each cast receives valuable feedback about its creativity, engagement in the performance, understanding of the material and connection to the lyrics and movement.  The most joyful and student-driven performances are celebrated with awards, and a select few groups are invited to perform during the closing awards ceremony for their peers.


Disney’s "Beauty and the Beast JR." features music by Alan Menken, lyrics by Howard Ashman and Tim Rice and a book by Linda Woolverton. In the musical, the brainy and beautiful Belle yearns to escape her provincial life and her brute of a suitor, Gaston. However, Belle gets more adventure than she wanted when she becomes a captive in the Beast's enchanted castle. Dancing flatware, menacing wolves, and singing furniture fill the stage with thrills in this beloved fairy tale about very different people finding strength in one another and learning how to love.


Local audiences can see performances of ACE's full production of "Beauty and the Beast JR." May 28 through June 2, at the Guignol Theatre, in the UK Fine Arts Building.


The 2013 Junior Theater Festival offers an enthusiastic environment for students and teachers to interact with thousands of others who share their passion for musical theater. In addition to presenting a 15-minute selection from their musical, both students and teachers participate in interactive workshops led by Broadway and West End professionals, gain from professional development, enjoy theatrical fellowship and attend a world-class professional production at the Fox Theatre. Student techies at the festival work side-by-side with festival staff in running all aspects of the festival experience.


ACE students participating in the 2013 Junior Theater Festival are: Alicen Abler; Nell Adkins; Melissa Anderson; HalleGrace Balcirak, Emma Becker; Jackson Becker; Grace Brooks; Sydney Bullock; Kiara Butts; Kieshaun Butts; Kimba Butts; Bridget Cashman; Harrison Carter; Catherine Curtwright; Will Curtright; Niamh Denny, Chloe Devre; Emilie Dhir; Joshua Dhir; Cooper Fitch; David Forish; Alex Franke; Patrick Garr; Carson Hardee; Annie Harris; Makenna Henehan; Grace Hensley; Callan Hogan; Liam Hogan; Aaron Holland; Lauren Holland; Addison Hollingshead; Kincaid Keating; Vivie Kurtz; Bella Mancuso; Lilly Meekin; Allison Miller; Sarah Morgan; Mariah Mowbray; Matthew Nassida; Hannah Neff; Abbie Paris; Elise Parker; Olivia Powers; Abby Quammen; Emily Reed; Dalton Richardson; Kaitlin Rucker; Vivian Rudd; Michael Saldana; Katie Swim; Tre Taylor; Anna Thiel; Margaret Tiennot; Hannah Tirlea; Hannah Beth Turner; Jordan Vescio; Rebecca Wallingford; Abby White; and Bridget Young.


Founded in 2009 as a preparatory performing arts program for school-aged students in the greater Lexington area, ACE is one of the leading training programs for young artists in the U.S. Its faculty comprises highly trained instructors who also have extensive experience as artists and performers and are active members of Lexington’s professional arts community.


ACE is an outreach program of the critically acclaimed UK Opera Theatre program housed at UK School of Music in the UK College of Fine Arts. The program promotes a well-rounded and balanced approach to arts training that focuses on both individual development and teamwork. While the group maintains a fun atmosphere that reflects the joy of live performance, it also strives for professional-level standards. ACE’s 2013 Junior Theater Festival cast designed, blocked and learned their festival presentation weeks in advance.


The ACE students have also been busy with a variety of fundraising projects to help pay for their trip to the Junior Theater Festival. Their next major fundraiser, the Broadway Bound Talent Competition, is set for March 2013. The students also maintain an active presence in their community, frequently performing for local groups and disadvantaged families at reduced rates and donating their talent as guest artists at various events for community organizations.


ACE attended the Junior Theater Festival for the first time in 2012. A cast of 35 students, ranging in age from 7-17, performed selections from "Seussical JR." The group won top honors in drama, picking up a Freddie G Outstanding Production Award, and student Patrick Garr received a Freddie G Outstanding Individual Male Performance Award. As one of just seven groups from across the country to win a Freddie G Outstanding Production Award, ACE students reprised one of the songs from their "Seussical JR." presentation for the more than 3,000 attendees at the Junior Theater Festival closing ceremonies. Furthermore, students Carson Hardee, Joshua Dhir, and Patrick Garr were three of only 50 students (out of a pool of more than 2,000) who made it to the final call-back for future Broadway Junior shoots for “how-to” choreography videos for musicals. All three made the final cut and spent a week in New York City last summer filming the DVD.


While the festival isn’t about creating the stars of tomorrow, many of the stars of today play a role at the Junior Theater Festival. Past festival attendees have included Zac Efron; Stephen Schwartz; Tony award winning performer Christian Borle ("Smash" and "Peter and the Starcatcher"); four-time Tony nominated composer Jeanine Tesori ("Thoroughly Modern Millie" and "Shrek: The Musical"); Disney Theatrical Group President Thomas Schumacher; Grammy award-winning musician, producer and songwriter Bryan-Michael Cox; Broadway actors Henry Hodges ("Mary Poppins"), Jenn Colella ("High Fidelity" and "Urban Cowboy"), Jenifer Foote ("A Chorus Line" and "Dirty Rotten Scoundrels"), Christy Carlson Romano ("Kim Possible," Disney’s "Beauty and the Beast," and "Avenue Q"); "American Idol’s" musical director Michael Orland; and Playbill columnist and "Talkin’ Broadway" radio host Seth Rudetsky.


Each group attending the festival is invited to nominate two students who take part in workshops designed to help develop their talents. A select few will be chosen for the technical theater track and will work side-by-side with seasoned professionals, and serve on the technical crew for the awards ceremony.


The Junior Theater Festival workshops empower teachers and professionals to present musicals in their community and offer educators the knowledge, skills and tools necessary to grow their program in every possible way.  The workshops focus on different aspects of putting on a show, including the “how to’s” of starting a drama club, choreographing musical numbers and creating great-looking sets and costumes on any budget. These workshops also serve as a professional exchange for teachers.


The festival’s student workshops and master classes inspire students to build skills that will have a positive impact on productions for years to come. Previous topics have included auditions, movement, and making the most out of rehearsals.


The Broadway Junior scouts will be on the lookout for outstanding students who will be invited to audition for iTheatrics resident choreographer Steven G. Kennedy for future Broadway Junior DVD shoots.




MEDIA CONTACT: Whitney Hale, (859) 257-8716 or whitney.hale@uky.edu


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