Asheville Performing Arts Academy attends Junior Theater Festival in Atlanta, Wins Excellence in Ens

Asheville Performing Arts Academy attends Junior Theater Festival in Atlanta, Wins Excellence in Ens

Asheville Performing Arts Academy received the honor of Excellence in Ensemble at the Junior Theater Festival in Atlanta, Georgia. Over the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday weekend, 115 student musical theater groups representing 29 states, the District of Columbia and three countries: Australia, South Korea and the United States of America, performed fifteen minute cuttings of musicals for adjudication. In addition, students and teachers attended festival workshops and performances by industry professionals. This year marks the 20th anniversary of the Broadway Junior Collection of musicals to be performed by young actors. The Junior Theater Festival is supported by Music Theatre International, Disney Musicals, and Playbill.


Thirty-four Asheville Performing Arts Academy students performed a piece from Disney’s THE JUNGLE BOOK KIDS for adjudication. The group received Excellence in Ensemble for a third year in a row. Selected as All-Star Performers, Ava Leigh Manderson and Kiran Bursenos performed with other All-Star students on the festival main stage in front of a crowd of over 5,000 attendees. All-Star Performers have the opportunity to workshop a new Broadway Junior work for a week over the summer in New York City. Campbell Abernathy and Colin Scott also performed on the main stage through the festival’s Broadway Slam. The adjudicators rewarded Mia Sander, Ceili Taft and Honesti Whiteside for their excellence in dance with the opportunity to audition for Broadway Junior Collection choreography videos.

The festival concluded with a concert by actor, musician and Emmy-nominated composer, Darren Criss, who most recently starred on Broadway in the title role of HEDWIG AND THE ANGRY INCH and can currently be seen on the Emmy award winning FX series, American Horror Story. Asheville Performing Arts Academy students had the privilege of meeting Darren Criss after his performance. 

Asheville Performing Arts Academy received accolades at previous Junior Theater Festivals. The Academy received Excellence in Ensemble in 2015 for PETER PAN JR, Excellence in Ensemble in 2014 for ALADDIN KIDS, Outstanding Achievement in Dance in 2012 for ANNIE JR, Outstanding Achievement in Acting in 2011 for PIRATES OF PENZANCE JR, Outstanding Achievement in Music in 2011 for INTO THE WOODS JR, Outstanding Achievement in Acting in 2010 for ALICE IN WONDERLAND JR, and the Festival Top Honor of the first ever Broadway Junior Spirit Award in 2010.  Asheville Performing Arts Academy owner and director Heather Gallagher was also among the first to ever receive the Junior Theater Festival FREDDIE G AWARD (2010), providing her the FREDDIE G EXPERIENCE, joining Freddie Gershon in New York City for master classes with Broadway Professionals. This past summer previous JTF All-Stars Ellie Corzine-Hewitt, Hogan McLamb, Cory Silver, and Ceili Taft spent a week in New York City to workshop MARY POPPINS JR, currently on its way to becoming a show in the Music Theater International Broadway Junior Collection. 

Asheville Performing Arts Academy students who attend the Junior Theater Festival are members of the Prep Academy and Academy musical theatre training program. Students in this program take acting, dance, music, and technical theatre classes, as well as rehearsing for productions. Students do not have to be a part of the training program to be a part of a production at the Asheville Performing Arts Academy. Registration is open to the community for students in grades pre-K through high school for the upcoming production of THE LION KING JR. Rehearsals are Wednesdays afternoons. Performances will be June 11th at Diana Wortham Theatre, downtown Asheville. To register, contact the Asheville Performing Arts Academy at (828) 253-4000 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..