Leading theatrical licensing agency Music Theatre International (Europe) Ltd will present the Europe’s first Junior Theatre Celebration at Leicester Curve next Sunday (12 March).
Following on from similar annual events across the USA and in Australia, the UK’s inaugural Junior Theatre Celebration is designed to bring together schools and youth groups who have been introduced to the world of musical theatre through the child-friendly Broadway Junior musicals.
The brainchild of Music Theatre International CEO Freddie Gershon, and launched in 1996, 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 MTI and experts in the field from the New York-based iTheatrics and designed to suit school assemblies as well as the energies and attention spans of younger performers, Broadway Junior musicals are described as perfect for teachers or directors who are new to musical theatre and seeking to introduce students to the joys of participating in a show.
Classic shows among the MTI titles available in Broadway Junior formats include: Annie, Fiddler On the Roof, Guys and Dolls, Hairspray, Into the Woods, Shrek, Singin’ in the Rain, Thoroughly Modern Millie, and Disney’s Aladdin, Beauty and the Beast, The Lion King and The Little Mermaid.
Launched 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.
The UK event will bring young performers from schools and youth groups from across the UK and Ireland together with experts and professional performers involved in musical theatre.
Proceedings will begin with the young performers presenting excerpts from Broadway Junior shows to a panel of adjudicators including directors Lotte Wakeham, Steven Dexter, and Racky Plews, alongside iTheatrics’ founder Timothy Allen McDonald and colleagues Steven G. Kennedy and Marty Johnson.
The youngsters, whose ages range from seven to 18, will enjoy an afternoon Q&A with the star of the current UK tour of Thoroughly Modern Millie, Strictly champion Joanne Clifton and interactive workshops presented by teaching artists form West End productions of Disney’s Lion King, Matilda and Wicked.
In the evening an awards ceremony and showcase featuring performances by a group of ‘All-Star’ singers and dancers selected earlier in the day will be followed by a concert featuring West End stars including: Liam Doyle (Wicked), Sophie Linder-Lee (Wicked), Sam Lupton (Little Shop of Horrors) and Kayleigh McKnight (Les Misérables) led by musical director Kris Rawlinson.
Crediting Stephen Sondheim as the inspiration behind Broadway Junior, Gershon said: “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.
“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.”