Provided by Gwendolyn Brooks Middle School

41 students from Gwendolyn Brooks Middle School’s BRAVO program were among the 3,000 who recently traveled to Atlanta for the 2012 Junior Theater Festival. For the third straight year, BRAVO earned the festival’s coveted honor of Outstanding Production for its production of Schoolhouse Rock Live, Jr – besting 65 schools from across the country for the award. In addition, student Max Gonzalez earned the award for Outstanding Male Performer. Beyond capturing these two prestigious awards, BRAVO was one of six groups invited to perform during the Disney Theatrical New Works Showcase, which was attended by all festival attendees. Tim McDonald, founder of Junior Theater Festival was quoted backstage while watching BRAVO during the New Works Showcase “this is better than Broadway!”

BRAVO was awarded Outstanding Production, for the third consecutive year, for Schoolhouse Rock Live, Jr. A trophy is received with this award along with the honor of performing one piece from our adjudication on Sunday during the Awards Show. BRAVO! performed Nouns.

Jeff Calhoun, Broadway director of Newsies (opening on Broadway in March), Hairspray, 9 to 5, Grease, High School Musical and others was one three adjudicators. After giving the kids a standing ovation, Calhoun gave praises for their performance. “WOW, now I know why you’re called BRAVO!”

Asked how many kids were on stage, after students replied 41, Calhoun turned to the room and replied, “I see one. One group, one family. I wish Broadway actors I work with had the same work ethic and commitment as you kids just displayed. It was unbelievable! Give me an hour and I could keep talking about all the wonderful things you do on stageOutstanding!

Eighth grader, Max Gonzalez was awarded Best Male Performer (BRAVO performed in the purple pod with 9 other middle schools).

Eighth grader, Maggie Lynch and seventh grader, Alex Frendt were awarded JTF All-Stars. They earned the opportunity to perform with 130 other All Stars from the 65 schools in the closing Awards Show with You Can’t Stop the Beat!

Ten BRAVO members received a Golden Ticket, an invitation to audition for the newest Broadway Jr. Choreography DVD in New York City. Max Gonzalez, Emilio Amaya, Tommy Figel, Alonte Williams, Grant Reynolds, Elena Awe, Tatiana Castenada, Sydney Jackson, Christen Conley, Maya Trinka and Sydney Jackson. After making it through cuts and call-backs, the kids will be notified in March if they’re selected to come to New York in July to film the newest choreography DVD produced by Broadway Jr’s iTheatrics.

BRAVO! choreographed and performed Finian’s Rainbow, Jr. for the Disney New Works Showcaseon Saturday for the 3,000 person festival audience. Only six schools were selected in August to perform new works at the festival. BRAVO has received this top honor for three consecutive years.

BRAVO boys helped choreograph, teach and performed Seize the Day from Newsies at the close of the New Works showcase on Saturday.

Max, Emilio, Tommy and Alonte taught 65 boys from other schools (with the support of all the BRAVO boy members) the choreography to Newsies on Friday in between showcase and adjudication rehearsals. Directors, teachers and students were blown away and awe inspired by BRAVO members’ ability to communicate, effectively teach and inspire 65 boys from other schools with perfect direction, patience, energy and passion. A director was quoted saying, “this is better than a professional master class!”

Leo Weinberg earned Technical All-Star.

Tim McDonald, iTheatrics and JTF founder, was so moved by BRAVO’s performance on Saturday evening, he requested BRAVO perform Finian’s Rainbow again, at the close of the Broadway Junior Slam, Sunday afternoon especially for the Executives from NBC’s newest TV series, SMASH who were there as festival sponsors and sponsoring the all new “Make a Musical” reality show beginning in the fall.

A camera crew followed BRAVO Saturday morning to document the adjudication process.

Director, Tina Reynolds received a Freddie G. Directors Award in 2010. Ms. Reynolds was given the honor to kick off the Awards Ceremony on Sunday and asked to describe what the Freddie G. experience is and introduce Mr. Freddie Gershon, president and founder of MTI.

BRAVO visited the Martin Luther King National Historic Site on Dr. King’s birthday. It was the perfect final chapter. To Remember, to Celebrate and to Act.

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Evan O'Brien

Evan O'Brien is the content manager of Soon after Evan was born in Chicago, his family moved to Oak Park for the same reason that attracts people to the "World's Largest Village" today: the...