NBC and "Smash" have also come on board to lend financial support for the 2012 festival, sponsoring all programming on Jan. 15. On and off-screen talent from the new series about the creation of a Broadway musical are expected to participate. The day will also give the over-3,000 participants a sneak peek of "Smash," which is produced by Steven Spielberg, Neil Meron and Craig Zadan.
Annie authors Meehan, Strouse and Charnin have been announced as the recipients of the 2012 Junior Theater Festival Award. Annie JR was the first Broadway musical to be adapted for MTI's Broadway JR series in 1998.
"Tom Meehan, Charles Strouse and Martin Charnin are some of the initial musical theatre authors who supported MTI's efforts to create versions of shows to be performed by grade school students. They were concerned that the next generation of potential theatre lovers was being lost to budget cuts and video games, and they knew the answer was in teachers and students. Since that first performance of Annie JR in 1998, millions of young people and their teachers have proven them right, and the culture and expectations of communities around the USA have forever been changed," MTI CEO Freddie Gershon said in a statement.
Disney will sponsor the New Works showcase that will introduce new productions for young performers and young audiences. They include the debut of Finian's Rainbow JR, as well as Dr. Doolittle JR, Disney's Peter Pan JR, Dinosaurs Before Dark KIDS - A Magic Tree House Musical, My Son Pinocchio JR and The Music Man KIDS.
Various student groups are also honored with the "Freddie G Awards," which recognize achievements in teamwork and production excellence. The awards were named for MTI's Gershon. Eight teachers from the festival will also be selected to participate in the "Freddie G Theatre Experience," which immerses a select group of instructors in the New York theatre world for a weekend in the summer.
Founded in 2003, the Junior Theatre Festival is the largest of its kind in the world and attracts students and instructors from across the U.S. who gather to participate in workshops and lectures, as well as perform highlights from their respective productions. Original A Chorus Line cast member Baayork Lee will also be among the participating artists.