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‘Deep well of talent’: Charlottesville theater students bring home national awards

Rebecca Barnabi
Courtesy of DMR Adventures.

Students representing DMR Adventures of Charlottesville won a Freddie G Excellence in Ensemble Work award and earned other recognition at the 2024 Junior Theater Festival Atlanta (JTF Atlanta).

The monumental weekend dedicated to rewarding and celebrating excellent student-driven musical theater programs happened January 12-14, 2024, at the Cobb Convention Center in Atlanta.

Students Amalie Hendricks and Jackson Van Santvoord were named Junior Theater Festival Performance All-Stars and Emit Tilrock was recognized as a Tech All-Star.

Each group performed 15 minutes of a Broadway Junior® musical for adjudicators at the festival.

DMR Adventures presented Disney’s Descendants: The Musical to Kelby Mcintyre-Martinez, educator and choreographer, Sam Bolar, teaching artist from the Springer Opera House, and actor Bob Lenzi (Tina: The Tina Turner MusicalTuck Everlasting).

“The energy was absolutely infectious in the room when they performed,” Bolar said. “They made me want to get up and dance, too. The future of their program is very bright.”

According to Lenzi, DMR “had an excellent ensemble focus and really worked well as a team. This group has a deep well of talent.” 

Called a “rousing celebration of theatre” by The New York Times, the Junior Theater Festival applauds and empowers young people and educators creating student-driven musical theater around the globe. The 2024 JTF Atlanta was an incredible weekend of singing, dancing, acting and learning. Participating in the festival were 125 groups from 30 states, as well as Washington DC, Canada, and Australia. 

The weekend included panels and performances from Arielle Jacobs (Here Lies Love, Between the Lines) and Adam Jacobs (The Lion King, Aladdin). This year’s performers, presenters and adjudicators included Tilly-Raye Bayer (Matilda, Disney’s Frozen – West End), director Jeff Calhoun (Disney’s Newsies), Katy Geraghty (Into the Woods), Taylor Iman Jones (Head Over HeelsSix), Beau Harmon (“So You Think You Can Dance”), Brittney Mack (Six), Luca Padovan (School of RockNewsies), New York Times best-selling author Jodi Picoult (Between the Lines), Wren Rivera (Jagged Little PillBetween the Lines), Isabella Russo (School of Rock), Joe Serafini (“High School Musical: The Musical: The Series”), Morgan Siobhan Green (Be More ChillHadestown – First National Tour), songwriter Rob Rokicki (The Lightning Thief: The Percy Jackson Musical), Thommy Bailey Vine (MatildaLes Misérables – West End) and Michael Wordly (Miss SaigonThe Color Purple – First National Tour).

Additional talent appearing at the festival and cheering the young artists were Elyssa Samsel and Kate Anderson (Between the LinesOlaf’s Frozen AdventureThe Book Thief) and playwright and author Vichet Chum(Bald SistersKween).

Groups enjoyed a New Works Showcase of performance selections from upcoming Broadway Junior® musicals presented by JTF groups, and other mainstage performances featuring powerhouse Broadway guests and took part in workshops.

DMR has celebrated previous success at the JTF Atlanta. At the 2023, 2020 and 2017 Junior Theater Festivals Atlanta, DMR Adventures earned a Freddie G Excellence in Acting award. At the 2022, 2015 and 2013 JTF Atlanta, the group was awarded Freddie G for Excellence in Ensemble Work awards. In 2013, DMR was called Union Street Theatre.

DMR actors have earned national recognition. At the 2021 JTF Online Edition, Reese Topper and Ella Watson were cast to perform in a virtual sneak peek production of Jason Robert Brown’s 13 JR. DMR Adventures’ student Jonah Taylor was selected to sing the National Anthem at the 2019 JTF ATL opening ceremonies. At the 2019 JTF Atlanta, Madison Chin and Connor Wells were named to the Tech All-Stars, a select group of students who worked side-by-side with seasoned professionals to help run events, and in at the 2018 JTF Atlanta Julianna Buyaki was named to Tech All-Stars. In 2019, Connor Wells was one of three students to receive the Sharidan Giles Technical Scholarship Award.

At the 2018 JTF Atlanta, Justin Parker won a Freddie G award for Excellent Individual Performance. Students Teagan Bower, Alex Ege, Anais Fogg, Eleanora (Ele) Fogg, Justin Parker and Dylan Stukenberg were selected to perform for composer, performer and songwriter Paul Williams when he received the Junior Theater Festival Legacy Award. Student Katie Wall was selected to be a JTF intern and helped to run festival events. In 2017, DMR Adventures student Kendall Wynn won a Freddie G Inspiration Award, given to a student who touched the hearts of the adjudicators in some way. In 2015, Jessica Harris and Landon Duval won Freddie G Excellent Individual Performance awards.

DMR Adventures has provided professional performing arts training from professionals since 2009. The high caliber of training serves to drive passion, discipline and commitment in students. DMR is comprised of several pre-professional programs, a touring competition team, an after-school program (YAS!), a youth leadership program, over 15 summer camps, and year-round training programs, some of which culminate in a MainStage season of performances. DMR students have gone on to top musical theatre conservatories and university training programs, and to perform in film, television, theme parks and national tours.

DMR Adventures students have even made it to the call-back for future shoots for “how-to” choreography videos for soon-to-be released musicals; Jackson Davis and Amalie Hendricks in 2022; Soren Corbett in 2020, Dylan Stukenberg and Soren Corbett in 2018 (with Soren Corbett ultimately being cast). In 2017, Miranda Powell was cast to shoot choreography videos in New York that summer.

In 2018, DMR Adventures educator Melissa Charles was an exceptional educator from schools and performing arts centers around the country selected for the 9th annual “The Freddie G Fellowship.” Freddie G Fellows win an all-expenses paid trip to New York City to work one-on-one with Broadway greats, as well as $5,000 to put towards their program.

Rebecca Barnabi

Rebecca Barnabi

Rebecca J. Barnabi is the national editor of Augusta Free Press. A graduate of the University of Mary Washington, she began her journalism career at The Fredericksburg Free-Lance Star. In 2013, she was awarded first place for feature writing in the Maryland, Delaware, District of Columbia Awards Program, and was honored by the Virginia School Boards Association’s 2019 Media Honor Roll Program for her coverage of Waynesboro Schools. Her background in newspapers includes writing about features, local government, education and the arts.