Afters a decade captivating local audiences, Moorestown Theater Company (MTC) earned a national performing award at the 2013 Junior Theater Festival in Atlanta, the world’s largest musical theater festival for children.
Produced by New York’s iTheatrics and Atlanta’s Theater of the Stars, this year’s festival (Jan. 18-20) brought together 4,000 students and teachers, representing 82 groups from 23 states. MTC, which performed Disney’s The Little Mermaid, Jr., was attending the Junior Theater Festival for the first time.
MTC’s Jack Morgan (“Prince Eric”) won a “Freddie G Outstanding Achievement Award” in the “Broadway Jr. Slam” competition, a theatrical challenge in which students who don’t know each other must stage and perform a song from a musical with just 60 minutes of practice. MTC’s Morgan Snowden (“Ariel”) was also selected to perform in the Broadway Jr. Slam competition. Morgan’s award came from his performance during a song from Into The Woods, Jr.
Morgan was also one of three students selected to ask a question of Tony-winning and eight-time Academy Award-winning composer Alan Menken (Newsies, The Little Mermaid, Beauty And The Beast, Aladdin, Little Shop Of Horrors, etc.). After Menken performed a concert of his many award-winning songs, he talked with Disney Theatrical Group president Thomas Schumacher about their experiences in and insights on musical theater.
Morgan’s question to Menken was: “Who is or was your favorite writing partner?,” to which Menken answered “It would have to be [the late] Howard [Ashman].”
Reflecting on his experience at the festival, Morgan said, "There is nothing like (it), and I am so glad that I was able to go to it with MTC and so many of my theater friends. It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience to receive an acting award and to talk to Alan Menken! The (festival) is such a safe, fun environment for everyone to let out their inner theater nerd."
MTC’s 24 students, ages 6 to 16, performed a condensed version of Disney’s during their 15 minutes for judges Nick Pramik, director of marketing and partnerships division at Broadway entertainment advertising agency SpotCo, and Karma Camp, choreographer at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. MTC was the only group of the seven in its “pod” to condense an entire show (as opposed to just performing various songs from a show) to better highlight more of its performers.
Pramik said of MTC’s seven-group pod: “MTC is a reason why this was the best pod I have ever adjudicated.”
Said Camp of the group’s performance: “The Moorestown Theater Company students produced really solid work. They worked well with each other. They had great energy.”
Additionally, MTC’s Aren Duffy (“Sebastian”) and Melissa Tucker (“Ursula”) were named to the “Broadway Jr. All-Stars,” made up of two outstanding students from each group at the festival. The All-Star students performed Godspell, Jr.’s “Oh, Bless The Lord” at the festival’s closing ceremonies (also with just one hour of rehearsal). MTC also had three performers selected to audition for MTI’s Broadway Jr. choreography DVD: Marirose Aleardi (Mersister “Aquata”), Emily Dunn (Mersister “Andrina”), and Emma Stopek (Mersister “Adella”).
MTC producing artistic director Mark Morgan was so elated about his experience at the '13 Junior Theater Festival, he leaked some information about MTC's performance at next year's festival: "We are so proud of our Little Mermaid performers in their first (festival) appearance and so thankful to our families that traveled with us to this fantastic event. As the only theater company from South Jersey to attend, we invite more students and families to go with us (next year), where we will perform Willy Wonka, Jr. And best of all, now my family won’t be the only ones raving about how cool (the festival) is!"
The 24 students who traveled to the Junior Theater Festival were:
- Marirose Aleardi (Mersister “Aquata”), Moorestown Friends School, 14, Moorestown
- Makayla Boxley (Mersister “Allana”), Sharp Elementary School, 10, Cherry Hill
- Josh Conklin (Seahorse), Lumberton Middle School, 13, Lumberton
- Tyler Conklin (“King Triton”), Rancocas Valley Regional High School, 16, Lumberton
- Natalie De Rosa (“Jetsam”), William Allen Middle School, 13, Moorestown
- Callan Devery (“Scuttle”), Moorestown High School, 14, Moorestown
- Paige Drummond (Sea Chorus), Van Zant Elementary School, 6, Marlton
- Aren Duffy (“Sebastian”), Van Zant Elementary School, 10, Marlton
- Emily Dunn (Mersister “Andrina”), Medford Memorial Middle School, 12, Medford
- Casey Flanagan (Mersister “Atina”), Lumberton Middle School, 13, Lumberton
- Alayna Griffin (Tentacle), Hainesport Elementary School, 10, Hainesport
- Stephen Gross (“Chef Louis”), Moorestown High School, 15, Moorestown
- Scott Hoover (“Grimsby”), Medford Memorial Middle School, 12, Medford
- Gavin Lynch (Sea Chorus), Our Lady Of Good Counsel Elementary School, 11, Mount Laurel
- Regina Maneri (“Flotsam”), Medford Memorial Middle School, 13, Medford
- Kylee Miller (Tentacle), William Allen Middle School, 13, Moorestown
- Jack Morgan (“Prince Eric”), Moorestown High School, 16, Moorestown
- Juliet Morgan (“Flounder”), Morestown Upper Elementary School, 10, Moorestown
- Alexia Shepherd (Tentacle), Ridgeway Middle School, 11, Edgewater Park
- Morgan Snowden (“Ariel”), Bishop Eustace Preparatory High School, 14, Lumberton
- Emma Stopek (Mersister “Adella”), Rosa International Middle School, 11, Cherry Hill
- Melissa Tucker (“Ursula”), Haddonfield Memorial High School, 15, Haddonfield
- Rehana Wells (Mersister “Arista”), Moorestown Upper Elementary School, 10, Moorestown
- Nicholas Williams (“Captain”), Moorestown Upper Elementary School, 11, Moorestown
Courtesy of Moorestown Theater Company