JTF 2016

Junior Theater Festival 2016

January 14-18, 2016

Atlanta, Georgia



Unprecedented Seven Years in a Row – BRAVO! Students Earn Outstanding Production Award at the National Junior Theater Festival


Tim McDonald, Founder of the Junior Theater Festival introduced BRAVO! as “The best middle school musical theater program in the WORLD!”  


45 BRAVO! students from Gwendolyn Brooks Middle School shined in Atlanta, GA


OAK PARK, Illinois, For the seventh consecutive year at Junior Theater Festival (JTF) in Atlanta, GA, BRAVO! students from Gwendolyn Brooks Middle School earned the top coveted award of OUTSTANDING PRODUCTION for the adjudicated performance of SEUSSICAL, JR.- an unprecedented achievement. Celebrating its 11th Anniversary, Junior Theater Festival hosted 115 groups from 28 states, Canada, South Korea and Australia. Junior Theater Festival is the world’s largest annual musical theater festival exclusively dedicated to kids ages 8-18.

The Outstanding Production honor earned BRAVO! the opportunity to perform one selected number at the Awards Ceremony on Sunday, January 17, 2016.  BRAVO! performed Biggest Blame of Fool – for the audience of over 5,800 and received an instantaneous, thunderous standing ovation.


In addition to the group’s OUTSTANDING PRODUCTION top honor, eighth grader Charlie Inksetter and freshman Carrie Wolter were named JTF All-Stars and performed on stage with All-Stars from the other 115 groups in attendance. Highlighting the All-Stars’ performance of Children Will Follow were 8th grade BRAVO! soloists Thomas Brandstrader and Abby Pridmore. Seventh grader, Johnny McGillen was named a Technical All Star and was assigned to work with the professional JTF staff on the New Works Showcase and the Awards Ceremony.  10 BRAVO! students were selected and honored the opportunity to audition for the Choreography DVD: Julia Anton, Armando Carlo, Magnolia Chesney, Montgomery Ellwanger, Max Halle-Podell, DeAnthony Howard, Alex Johnson, Zora Johnson, Abby Pridmore and Carrie Wolter.  All TEN students made the final cut and will be notified in March if they are selected to be a part of the 2016 Choreography DVD being filmed in New York City this summer.


BRAVO! students were also featured in a Music Theater International medley commemorating 20 years of Broadway JR. Alex Johnson, Collette Donlin, Armando Carlo, Abby Pridmore, Mari Wolter, Seth Flynn, Carson Flemming, Yana Keane, Gina Montalvo and  Max Halle-Podell, all had featured moments during the medley, to the thrill of the festival audience.


The BRAVO! students were outstanding ambassadors for students across America and embraced their responsibilities with maturity, poise, generosity and graciousness throughout the four day weekend.

BRAVO! wrapped the weekend up with a visit to the Martin Luther King historical site, museum and birthplace on Martin Luther King Day holiday.  After their visit, Ms. Reynolds asked the students to sum up their experience in one word. Here are a few responses- “Powerful”, “Amazing”, “Beautiful”, “Emotional”, “Grateful”, “Moving”, “Memorable”, “Historical”, “Courage”, “Celebration”, “Empowered” and “Thankful” .


Our award winning BRAVO! students representing District 97 and Oak Park included Julia Anton, Luca Bosco, Thomas Brandstrader, Armando Carlo, Magnolia Chesney, Claire Cooke, Evelyn Crane, Ruby Dalton, Caroline Diskin, Maria Donlin, Nina Donlin, Collette Donlin, Lily Doody, Cait Egan, Montgomery Ellwanger, Jack Farrar, Carson Flemming, Alex Fliszar, Emily Fliszar, Seth Flynn, Anna Freivogel, Lindsay Gooch, Samantha Gotti, Max Halle-Podell, Meenah Harbaugh, Ava Hart, Lilian Hermann, DeAnthony Howard, Charlie Inksetter, Alex Johnson, Zora Johnson, Yana Keane, Olivia Marmer, Tess McConville, Johnny McGillen, Gina Montalvo, Matthew Murphy, Sarah Pilditch, Abby Pridmore, Ella Renner, Elise Scheuring, Ty Schirmer, McKale Thompson, Mari Wolter and Carrie Wolter.


JTF is a celebration of young people and the transformative power of musical theater.  This is the 8th consecutive year BRAVO! from Gwendolyn Brooks Middle School has been invited to the festival and has played an integral role in the weekend’s festivities.  The students and staff were honored to represent Gwendolyn Brooks Middle School, Oak Park Elementary School District 97 and the Oak Park community. Members of the phenomenal BRAVO! Leadership Team include: Choreographers, Rachel Caron & Alonte Williams (current Oak Park River Forest High School senior and alumnus of Gwendolyn Brooks ); Musical Director, Cameron Burgess (alumnus of Gwendolyn Brooks Middle School and Oak Park River Forest High School); Costume & Hair Designer Lisa Morrow; Stage Manager, Brooke Thompson; Business Manager, Randi Orlin, and Director and BRAVO! Artistic Director, Tina Reynolds.