KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Students from theatre programs in Morristown and Maryville earned honors at the 2022 Junior Theater Festival Atlanta. This festival is a celebration of student-driven musical theater programs; Broadway stars joined the festival both in person and virtually to share their expertise with attendees.

Annie Rader and Millie Rochelle from Broadway Center for the Arts in Maryville and Sawyer Stacy and Alix Thompson from Encore Theatrical Company in Morristown were distinguished as All-Stars, an outstanding group of young performers at the festival. In addition, Encore Theatrical Company won a Freddie G Award for Excellence in Music.

During the festival, each group performed 15 minutes of a Broadway Junior® musical for a panel of judges.

Broadway Center for the Arts presented Disney’s Aladdin JR. in front of Broadway actor Krystina Alabado (Gretchen Wieners in Mean Girls, American Idiot), Kenny Shepard, Choreographer for The Children’s Museum’s Lilly Theatre/Indianapolis, director Holly Stanfield (national student premieres of Aida School Edition, Thoroughly Modern Millie School Edition and Rent School Edition).

The judges all shared praise for the student’s performance and their interpretation of the show.

“This program thinks outside the box and was so creative with how they staged this production, the students looked like they had the best time!” said Alabado. Shepard added, “Student choreographer, Annie Rader has learned well from her mentors at Broadway Center for the Arts. Her ingenious magic carpet ride was original, memorable, and was a festival standout!”

“The young actors from Broadway Center for the Arts are learning great listening and performance skills. Their sensitivity to the story of young Aladdin and Princess Jasmine is a tribute to their emotional courage, and work on acting, singing and dance,” said Stanfield.

Encore Theatrical Company performed Children of Eden JR. for composer and lyricist Rob Rokicki (The Lightning Thief: The Percy Jackson Musical) and choreographer and educator Shay Rodgers.

“This group had fabulous ensemble work, lovely vocals and strong performances. Their theatre program picked a fantastic piece that seemed tailor-made for this specific group of performers. The performers conveyed so much emotion and had a strong sense of pride in their work,” said Rodgers.

The Encore Theatrical Company’s directors wrote, “Like other companies, we have dealt with COVID for the past two years. Rehearsals and performances in masks have been no easy feat but our kids have participated with amazing enthusiasm and such grace! Our Encore kids understand that THE SHOW MUST GO ON!”

Both groups shared that the festival was an incredible and safe weekend of singing, dancing, acting, and learning. This year was Broadway Center for the Arts’ first trip to the festival while Encore has enjoyed success at past festivals. In 2021, they won the Freddie G Excellence in Dance award and Freddie G Excellence in Music, and in 2018 and 2016, they won the Freddie G Excellence in Acting awards.