Local students win national awards at Junior Theater Festival Atlanta

Press release from Ravenscroft Public Relations:

Students from Asheville Performing Arts Academy in Asheville, MusicWorks! Studio of Performing Arts in Canton, and Parkway Playhouse Junior in Burnsville won national awards and earned recognition at the 2019 Junior Theater Festival Atlanta, which happened January 18-20, 2019 at The Cobb Galleria Centre in Atlanta. The Junior Theater Festival Atlanta united 6,600+ students and educators from 133 educational musical theater groups representing 28 states, Australia, China, New Zealand, and the U.K.

MusicWorks! Studio of Performing Arts won a Freddie G Award for Excellence in Music, and students Kara White, Leah Rodgers and Molly Spruill received the Freddie G Award for Outstanding Student Direction and Choreography.

Parkway Playhouse Junior also won a Freddie G Award for Excellence in Music. Student Aaron Neighbors received a Freddie G Award for Excellent Individual Performance by a Male.

Asheville Performing Arts Academy student Ceili Taft received a Freddie G Award for Excellent Individual Performance by a Female.

Asheville Performing Arts Academy and MusicWorks! Studio of Performing Arts joined students from 13 other educational musical theater groups in presenting an opening number from Oliver JR. at the New Works showcase. The event is an evening of student-run performances which showcase upcoming releases from Music Theatre International’s Broadway Junior library of titles.


The Asheville Performing Arts Academy students presented selections from Disney’s and Cameron Mackintosh’s Mary Poppins JR. for music director and teacher Derek Bowley and Thembi Duncan, director of arts engagement and education at Shea’s Performing Arts Center.

Derek Bowley said, “The performers gave energy and power to the big dance numbers, but also offered nuance and subtlety to the more tender moments like ‘Feed the Birds.’ They had the vocal power to blow us away on the big numbers.” Added Thembi Duncan, “Asheville Performing Arts Academy had super dance numbers and excellent ensemble work. These performers truly embodied their characters with intention and energy. They were fully present and engaged at critical moments.”

The MusicWorks! Studio of Performing Arts students presented selections from Disney’s Aladdin JR. for composer and lyricist (The Magic School Bus, Atlantis) Matthew Lee Robinson and artistic director of Theatre for Youth and Families Rosemary Newcott.

Rosemary Newcott said, “This ensemble brought great integrity and exceptional focus to their performance. The physicalization of the Cave and the way in which the Genie appeared within the cave was very clever and clear. The emotional commitment of the entire group was exceptional. There were some beautiful voices as well!” Matthew Lee Robinson added, “MusicWorks! Studio of Performing Arts had brilliant energy. There were wonderful intimate moments, backed by group dynamism.””

The Parkway Playhouse Junior students presented selections from Disney’s and Cameron Mackintosh’s Mary Poppins JR. for music director, teacher, and vocal coach (Les Misérables, Sound of Music, Annie) Bill Newberry and artistic director of the Adventure Theatre MTC Michael J. Bobbitt.

Michael Bobbitt said, “These young performers gave me chills throughout the piece. I just fell in love with all of them.” Bill Newberry said, “They had beautiful vocals. These were strong young men. Their ensemble work was impressive.”

Additional Recognition:

Asheville Performing Arts Academy’s Campbell Abernathy and Tia Irby and MusicWorks! Studio of Performing Arts’ Hannah Meigs, Parkway Playhouse Junior’s Aaron Neighbors made it to the call-back for future Broadway Junior shoots for “how-to” choreography videos for soon-to-be released Broadway Junior musicals. The shoots will be taped in New York City this summer. The Broadway Junior scouts were on the lookout for outstanding students, out of 6,600 people at the festival, 181 were invited to audition for iTheatrics resident choreographer Steven G. Kennedy. The final cast will be determined later this year. These videos will be used in tens of thousands of schools across the country and internationally.

Asheville Performing Arts Academy’s Ian Adkins and Ellie Hewitt-Corzine, MusicWorks! Studio of Performing Arts’ Javan Delozier and Kara White and Parkway Playhouse Junior’s Ellie Murphy and Aaron Neighbors were named to the Junior Theater Festival All-Stars, made up of outstanding performers attending the festival. The All-Stars performed a song during the closing ceremony for all 6,600 festival attendees.

Produced by the Junior Theater Group in partnership with iTheatrics, a leading educational theater company that creates innovative experiences and products for the public and private sector, the Junior Theater Festival Atlanta is the world’s largest festival celebrating young people and the transformative power of musical theater. This year’s title sponsors were Music Theatre International, Disney Theatrical Group, and Playbill, Inc®. The Junior Theater Festival was founded in 2003. In 2010 the festival became an annual event.

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