Two thousand young performers head to Junior Theatre Festival 2024

Monday, May 20, 2024

The ICC in Birmingham comes alive with the sound of Musical Theatre across two-day global event

Photography by Andrew Caruso © Music Theatre International 2024
Photography by Andrew Caruso © Music Theatre International 2024

More than 2000 young Musical Theatre performers headed to Birmingham at the weekend for Junior Theatre Festival Europe. The annual event, organised by Music Theatre International (MTI) in partnership with iTheatrics in New York, was held at the International Convention Centre (ICC), home to Symphony Hall. This year it was extended to two days, broadening the reach of the Festival to even more young performers.

From Saturday 18 to Sunday 19 May, 60 schools and youth groups from across the globe attended workshops, adjudications and showcases of new works. This year, there were nine international groups from countries including the Czech Republic, Georgia, Italy and the US; as JTF Europe Producer Ryan Macaulay said: ’It’s important to acknowledge that the arts can bring the world together in ways that no other medium can.’

MTI was founded in 1952 by composer Frank Loesser and orchestrator Don Walker, and has offices in London, New York and Melbourne. Across its catalogue of more than 400 titles, MTI represents shows from Broadway classics and works by Sondheim, to Disney extravaganzas and musicals produced by Cameron Mackintosh. Its Broadway Junior series, designed for children and young people, see these musicals condensed into 30- or 60-minute shows.

Both days followed a broadly similar format, kicking off with two adjudication sessions, whereby seven or eight performing arts schools across four ‘pods’ presented a 15-minute excerpt from an MTI Broadway Junior show in front of a panel of industry experts who then worked with the performers to help them hone and refine their skills. This year, the panellists ranged from performers Ashley Campbell (Tammy Faye, Just For One Day) and Lauren Alexander (The Lion King, Matilda film) to directors Kate Golledge (NYMT, Disney Music Group) and Priya Patel Appleby (My Son’s A Queer in Edinburgh, Legally Blonde at Regent’s Park).

After lunch, all pods gathered for the New Works Showcase, which this year featured thrilling performances from two new MTI-licensed Junior productions: The Drowsy Chaperone, performed by Get Your Wigle On from Shrewsbury, and Newsies, performed by British Theatre Academy from London. There was also a Q&A session on new writing with Jake Brunger and Pippa Cleary (The Great British Bake Off Musical) and a performance from Prodigy, their new musical for young people, by Charlotte Wakefield (Bake Off, Spring Awakening).

Following an afternoon of acting, singing and dancing workshops with representatives from Hamilton, Frozen and Matilda, participants gathered again for the Awards Ceremony, which featured performances by special guests Jordan Luke Gage and Lauren Drew. After a performance of ‘It’s My Life’ from & Juliet, Gage joined with Drew for ‘As Long as You’re Mine’ from Wicked. Drew then whipped up a frenzy with ‘No Way’ from SIX before Gage raised the roof with ‘Raise a Little Hell’ from Bonnie and Clyde.

As the two-day event drew to a close, MTI Europe said: ‘What an astonishing weekend it’s been at JTF 2024, packed with workshops, performances and unforgettable moments. We can’t wait to see you take forward everything you’ve learnt into future productions.’

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