Inspiration Stage Earns Top Honor at Atlanta’s Junior Theatre Festival with Once on This Island, Jr.

Inspiration Stage students also honored to perform with Broadway’s Cynthia Erivo at Benj Pasek and Justin Paul concert finale

SUGAR LAND, Texas (Jan. 23, 2019) – Inspiration Stage’s Once on This Island, Jr. company received the highest honor, the Outstanding Performance award, at the 2019 Junior Theatre Festival (JTF) in Atlanta Saturday. Only nine out of the 133 companies performing at the festival earned this top honor.

Inspiration Stage took a company of 31 musical theatre students, ages nine to 18, to the festival with a 15-minute cut of the popular musical, whose revival just closed on Broadway Jan. 6. An Outstanding Performance award means the recipients received the highest praise in all areas of musical theatre, including dance, music, acting and ensemble work.

Along with the other Outstanding Award recipients, Inspiration Stage presented a number from their award-winning performance at festival Sunday on the big stage for more than 6,500 attendees from 28 U.S. States, Washington D.C., and five other countries, including Canada, Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and China. Inspiration Stage closed out the Outstanding Award performances at the Freddie G Awards Ceremony with its energetic rendition of “Why We Tell the Story,” to a standing ovation.

“We love JTF, its mission of spreading the universal benefits of artistic expression, and its dedication to reminding us ‘why we tell story,’” says Inspiration Stage’s artistic director, Mandy Seymore-Sensat. “Since Inspiration Stage’s inception, annual JTF participation has become an integral high point of every season for our students, parents, and staff. Being surrounded, supported, and challenged by thousands of like-minded peers and professionals during JTF’s immersive theatre-centric celebration is rewarding and exhilarating. Art is heart. iTheatrics’ stellar organization creates an invigorating, supportive environment of artistic enthusiasm and rejuvenation.”

Inspiration Stage’s pod of performers included six other theatre companies, each performing its own 15-minute cut of a different musical. The panel of professional adjudicators selected two Inspiration Stage actors to receive the pod’s Award for Excellent Performance, both Female and Male. Mya Bryant (Ti Moune) received the female award and Evan Blackwell (Tonton Julian) received the male award.

Blackwell, a 16-year-old Ridge Point High School junior from Sienna Plantation, says, “Winning an award for my role as Tonton in Once on This Island was also incredibly rewarding, and made this year’s JTF one to remember for the rest of my life.”

Emily Adams (Papa Ge) and Danny Terrier (company) were also selected as the Inspiration Stage company All-Stars by the adjudicators.

The festival ended with a special concert by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, Tony, Academy and Golden Globe award-winning composers and lyricists known for their writing and musical contributions in movies (The Greatest ShowmanLa La Land), and on Broadway (Dear Evan HansenJames & the Giant Peach).

During the concert, Inspiration Stage’s Bryant was asked to sing The Greatest Showman’s “This is Me” in a duet with another JTF festival attendee, accompanied by Pasek and Paul, bringing the crowd to their feet.

“This was such an unexpected way to end my time at Junior Theatre Festival,” Bryant, a 17-year-old Elkins senior from Missouri City, says. “I cannot thank the iTheatrics staff enough for trusting and believing in me. It was truly and honor to get to perform with such amazing and talented people.Thank you Mandy and Sarah for introducing me to the festival and walking beside me every step of the way!”

Additionally, nine Inspiration Stage students were selected to sing with special guest, Tony, Grammy and Emmy award-winning singer and actor Cynthia Erivo, alongside Pasek and Paul. Together with other selected students, Inspiration Stage’s Adams, Blackwell, Bryant, Abigail Cooney (Andrea Devereux), Rayevin Johnson (Asaka), Cameron Krouch (Daniel), Andrew Sackett (company), Trent Soto (Agwe) and Reese Warren (Mama Euralie) performed “You Will Be Found” for the show’s big finale.

“This has been one of the most awe-inspiring experiences of my theatre career. The opportunity to perform in front of Broadway legends of such talent has been nothing short of an honor,” Blackwell says.

“Our initial involvement, which began as attendees-only, has blossomed into treasured invitations to perform in special JTF events, rare opportunities to pilot new shows under development, and professional networking that frequently allows iStage to offer its family unique possibilities,” says Seymore-Sensat.

Eight Inspiration Stage youth also received Golden Tickets — special invitations to audition for the opportunity to appear in MTI instructional guide choreography DVDs distributed with its Broadway Jr. series of shows. Five iStagers received callbacks for the third, ultra-competitive round of auditions, including Jackson Champion (company), Jane Delahoussaye (company), Gentry Claire Lumpkin (company), Annalicia Teel (company) and Terrier. Final winners will be contacted during March if they are invited to film in New York City.

In February, Inspiration Stage will take a different company to JTF West in Sacramento to perform Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Jr. for adjudicators. They will also be giving the West attendees a first look at the new junior adaptation of Frozen, being released this year for community and school theatres, during the Saturday evening New Works Showcase.

Inspiration Stage is a national award-winning performance arts studio located in the historic Sugar Land Auditorium at 226 Lakeview Dr. The 2018/2019 season includes youth and adult productions, as well as acting and production classes. Tuition assistance is available to qualifying participants. For tickets and information, visit