This weekend a group of 38 cast members from The Little Mermaid attended the Junior Theater Festival, the largest music theater festival in the nation. We were one of 82 groups from 23 states that performed for adjudication. Only 10% of the groups were public school programs, with the other 90% being performing arts academies.
All groups were adjudicated on Saturday morning on their ‘under 15 minutes including applause’ version of a Broadway Jr. show. Then we had workshops from Broadway professionals in acting, dance and singing.
Saturday evening we found out that we were one of the top 8 groups of the entire festival. This honor included not only a large trophy, but the honor of being featured on the main stage to perform at the closing ceremonies for the 4000 attendees at the festival.
On Saturday evening we also found out that Milan Patel and Evie Lawson were selected as All-Star performers.
Carter Bennett and Danielle Heslin were selected as JTF Slam performers.
Cara Flower, Annie Lesser, Rene Evangelista, Natalie Shih, Nikki Adler, Alex Jaeger, Gracie Weller and Alexandra Johnson were selected to audition on Sunday for a choreography DVD for future Jr. shows.
Winning Outstanding Performance meant that we had a 7:00 a.m. technical rehearsal on Sunday morning. After rehearsal, the cast then heard from actors, Briga Heelen, who is on Cougar Town and Skylar Astin from “Pitch Perfect” about how to use the skills they learn from being on stage to be successful in whatever they decide to do in life. (They are former JTF attendees)
Alan Menken, composer of “The Little Mermaid”, “Beauty and the Beast” and the current Broadway hit “Newsies” was an honoree at the festival and sang and played his songs for the festival.
The judges and workshop presenters for the weekend were actors, directors, producers, and professionals from Broadway and the Kennedy Center. Actors from Newsies flew in for a special performance on Sunday afternoon.
For our main stage presentation on Sunday afternoon, we were requested by the judges to perform “Under the Sea”. Twenty-two groups had chosen “The Little Mermaid Jr.” for their adjudicated selection, so to be the one group to present the largest showstopper number from the show was an incredible honor.
At the following awards ceremony, RMS Drama additionally received an award for outstanding ensemble work. Milan Patel, who had played Sebastian, received an outstanding actor award, and student director/choreographer/Ursula actress, Alexandra Johnson, received the top award for hardest working female, presented by “Pitch Perfect” actor, Skylar Astin.
This national festival was the main reason for moving our play from Spring to the Fall so we could participate. We were in awe of the level of ability of all of the groups this weekend, the quality of the workshops we attended and the presentations of our special guests.
It was an incredible weekend, and as the director of RMS Drama, I am so so very proud of how our actors took JTF by storm. The co-founder of the festival came over and hugged me after we saw the Blue Man group at the Fox on Sunday evening and told me, “You’ve had quite a weekend for your first time, haven’t you?” We definitely did.