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Kids aim to excel at international theater fest

January 11, 2019

A performing arts group from Friendswood hopes to complete a three-peat when its young thespians compete Jan. 18-21 at the international Junior Theatre Festival in Atlanta, Ga.

Children from Purple Box Theater were honored both times they competed before, in 2017 and 2018, in competition with groups from across the globe.

“Those were our first times to compete,” said Cathy Holbrook, Purple Box’s founding artistic director and owner.

“Prior to that, we would go to New York and Disney World for workshops, but once we decided to compete, the kids loved it and we did well. So, they want to go back,” she said. “They love being around other kids their ages who all like doing the same things they like.”

JTF Atlanta, which attracts 6,000 participants, takes place at the Cobb Galleria Centre.

“The energy and vibe of the convention center is electric,” said Holbrook.

The “Purple Box Kids” will perform a 15-minute cutting from “Disney’s Peter Pan Jr.,” with songs that include “Elegant Captain Hook,” “Follow the Leader,” “Never Smile at a Crocodile,” “Walk the Plank,” “Yo ho a Pirate’s Life” and “You Can Fly.”

”The cut includes songs, acting and choreography,” said Holbrook, explaining that the youngsters will be judged on storytelling and conveying story and emotion through movement and choreography, style, execution and creativity.

The cast of 23 includes students who will be competing at nationals for the first, second or third time.

Lily Newsom, 17, a senior at Lutheran South Academy, is featured as Captain Hook.

The daughter of Jim and Grace Newsom of Pearland was named to the “All Star Team” at last year’s festival, when “Purple Box Kids” performed a cutting from the musical “Shrek Jr.,” and their presentation was one of only a handful from among 119 entries to be awarded the prestigious Freddie G Award for “Excellence in Music.” The award is named in honor of Freddie Gershon, the chairman and CEO of Music Theatre International and recipient of an honorary Tony Award in 2012.

Other third-year competitors will include Mylana Valdina, Elena Vasquez, Avery Martin, Brianna Rankin, Liam Alonzo, Hannah Brueggeman, Arabella Reyes, Ainsley Whittington and Madi McClellen.

Last year, Vasquez earned a spot on the main stage in an event called Broadway Slam. For it, she was given an hour to learn a song and its choreography before performing.

This will be the second year for both Clarq Bishop and Jake Cipolla to compete.

First-year participants will include Reagan Beaver, Kamille Bishop, Christina Goodwill-Sivley, Savannah Mayfield, Alayna McClure, Emma Murray, Mya Ott, Addison Rosenthal, Haley Smith, Sarah Staples and Kate Wilds.

Avery Martin, Brianna Rankin and Mylana Valdina will represent Purple Box Theater in the category of Theater Tech Olympics, which requires students to change costumes, mark the stage and set props from a list, while being timed.

Eight of the Friendswood contingent will audition to be cast as dancers in a professional DVD on choreography.

In 2017, the group was one of only 13 out of 120 entries to win a Freddie G Award. Their presentation was from “Beauty and the Beast Jr.”

The weekend will feature professional development for teachers, workshops for students and parents and a New Works Showcase of new musical adaptations soon to be released. It will conclude with a grand finale concert, per information at itheatrics.com/jtf.

JTF is sponsored by Playbill, Disney Musicals and Music Theatre International.

Don Maines is a freelance writer who can be reached at donmaines@att.net

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