By Michele Dotson email@example.com
Freshman Garrett Costin is in his second year in musical theater and this will be his first time attending the festival.
“I have so much fun getting together with people I’m comfortable with,” says Costin. “This is a great activity; a way of expressing who I am.”
For Costin, who has aspirations of being involved with Broadway someday, the festival will offer opportunities to see all aspects of theater.
Created by New York’s iTheatrics and produced by the Junior Theater group, the Junior Theater Festival is the world’s largest musical theater festival celebrating young people and the transformative power of musical theater. The 2014 festival will bring together more than 4,500 students, teachers, and Broadway professionals to celebrate on-stage and backstage excellence in musical theater.
Each group performs a 15-minute selection of a musical for a panel of distinguished theater professionals. The 22 middle-school-age students representing Queen’s Grant Community School will present Honk! JR. for adjudication.
Director Tiffany Dunagan says the group will present music from their spring production of Honk! JR, but there have been some changes in the casting requiring extra rehearsals and fine-tuning.
“Of the 32 original cast members, only 20 will be going to the festival,” says Dunagan. “It has been a bit of a challenge to rearrange some parts, but it’s coming along.”
Some students had to choose between the eighth grade trip and this one. Other students had other commitments and couldn’t attend the festival at that time.
“Our Parents have been wonderful, helping us raise funds. One parent organized a Christmas Fair, and we have had babysitting nights for our parents,” says Dunagan.
This is the school theater group’s fifth time attending the Junior Theater Festival, and many former students returned to help choreograph, direct, and operate sound and lighting for this production.
Queens Grant senior Parks Sadler helps with choreography and attends all rehearsals.
“It’s an art that helps you express who they are personally in a lot of ways that people wouldn’t think of,” says Sadler, who, in addition to participating in musical theater at Queen’s Grant, has been involved with musical theater at the Matthews Playhouse for three years.
Teachers and students collaborated to create the group’s interpretation of Honk! JR, which is a take-off on the Hans Christian Anderson Ugly Duckling story, by watching videos of the animals featured in the musical in order to mimic their movements and characteristics that were then incorporated into their performances.
Queen’s Grant students have racked up quite an impressive list of achievements in past years’ participation at the festival.
At the 2013 Festival, students presented selections from Roald Dahl’s Willy Wonka JR. for adjudication and won a Freddie G Outstanding Ensemble Performance award.
Student Nolan Dunagan, who is currently the group’s student director, received a Freddie G Award for Excellent Achievement in the Broadway JR. Slam, a theatrical challenge in which students who don’t know each other must stage and perform a song from a musical in an hour. Additionally, Queen’s Grant students Max Becker and Samantha Kodikara were named to the Broadway JR. All-Stars, made up of two outstanding students from each group at the festival.
Queen’s Grant Community School students presented Disney’s Alice in Wonderland JR. at the 2012 Junior Theater Festival. In 2011 the students presented Annie JR. and won a Freddie G Outstanding Achievement in Dance award.
The group attended the Junior Theater Festival for the first time in 2010 and earned their first awards; a Freddie G Outstanding Achievement in Music award for their presentation of songs from Seussical JR., and student Parks Drake was awarded the Freddie G Hardest Working Female award for her performance.
Fifth grade teacher Leslie Glosser, along with former fifth grade teacher and current curriculum developer, Tiffany Dunagan continue to keep the music theater program highly active and competitive. Parents continue to help with costumes and props and so once the festival is over, they won’t be resting long on their laurels.
“We have a spring production to prepare,” says Glosser. “We are doing Flat Stanley JR in the spring. This will be open to the public as usual for four performances.”
Which, if history repeats, will be incredibly well done.
And sold out.