A select group of students at Theatre Under the Stars' Humphreys School of Musical Theatre have been working for the past several weeks to perform a number from Lion King JR in the 2015 Junior Theater Festival in Atlanta in January.
iTheatrics and Disney Musicals picked the kids to appear in the New Works Showcase at the festival on Martin Luther King weekend, after which the musical will be released into the Broadway Junior Collection to be performed by schools all over the country.
Several weeks ago, Steven Kennedy, vice president of publishing for iTheatrics and Broadway Junior's Resident Choreographer, came to Houston to give the kids some tips while they practiced.
"In the country right now, high schools have thriving theater arts programs," Kennedy says. But middle schools students and elementaries are looking for more guidance and that's what the Broadway Junior collection is geared toward.
" In 1998 Freddie Gershon, the head of Music Theatre International,was trying to find out where are our audiences going," Kennedy said. And his research team came to the conclusion that the audience was dwindling "because kids aren't given the opportunity to perform in school anymore." Gershon and the owner of iTheatrics, Timothy McDonald, developed the Broadway Junior collection, Kennedy says.
"We're seeing an increase in kids and parents on campus. Their parents are there participating because there's something to go to," Kennedy says. "Not every kid wants to play football or can play football. It's another opportunity for team sports."
The Houston kids going to the theater weekend will also gain a lot of good exposure and experience, Kennedy says. "These kids have the opportunity to get in front of 5,000 fans and perform in a giant, wonderful, theatrical stage and share what they've learned from the Lion King."
Here's an example of what goes on in the festival: