The 2012 Junior Theater Festival was held January 13-15 at the Cobb Galleria in Atlanta. The event is the world's largest musical theater festival dedicated to groups working with elementary, middle and high school students.
Among the celebrities were actors Christian Borle, Brian d'Arcy James and Jaime Cepero from NBC's upcoming drama Smash, along with the show's executive producers Craig Zadan and Neil Meron, as well as director-choreographers Baayork Lee and Jeff Calhoun, and Annie creators Thomas Meehan, Charles Strouse, and Martin Charnin.
More than 3,000 students and teachers -- representing 65 schools in 19 states staging musical theater productions -- attended the event. Students from Central Drama Players in Mayfield, Kentucky won the Freddie G Broadway Junior Spirit Award, the festival's top award given to the group that most embodies the spirit of educational musical theater.
As part of the event Music Theatre International CEO Freddie Gershon announced the first 15 schools to be chosen for the national launch of NBC's Smash: Make a Musical program, a philanthropic initiative that will help create sustainable musical theater programs in underserved schools nationwide.
In addition, more than 100 students from various schools donned wigs and costumes to serenade Meehan, Strouse, and Charnin, when they accepted the 2012 Junior Theater Festival Award recognizing their contributions toward the advancement of musical theater for young people.