Katherine and Kayleigh Tolley

Katherine (left) and Kayleigh (right) Tolley performing in the Boothbay Y-Arts production of “Seussical Junior” at the Junior Theater Festival in Atlanta.

Two Lincoln Academy juniors were among the award-winning cast of Boothbay Y-Arts’ “Seussical, Junior,” that recently traveled to Atlanta for the Junior Theater Festival.

Twin sisters Kayleigh and Katherine Tolley of Damariscotta have been participating in the Boothbay YMCA’s Y-Arts Theater program for three years. Each year the cast and directors develop a 15-minute “junior” version of a well-known piece of musical theater, and then take the show on the road to Atlanta. This year the directors chose Seussical the Musical, and spent the school year developing choreography and music to take to the festival. Their performance was awarded the highest honor at the festival, “Outstanding Production,” (one of only nine of 119 groups to receive this honor) and invited to perform their piece in front of 6,000 festival attendees.

The Junior Theater Festival is “the world’s biggest and best celebration of young people performing musical theater,” according to their website. The festival takes place in two locations: Atlanta, Georgia and Los Angeles, California, and includes adjudication for group performances, workshops for theater directors and students, and guest appearances by Broadway stars.

“This year at the Junior Theater Festival was absolutely amazing,” said Katherine. “Out of the three years we have done it, this year was the first time we won Outstanding Production, which is the highest award a team can earn. It was so exciting! Along with the title, each team gets to perform one number from their piece on the main stage. It was one of the most amazing performing experiences I have ever had.”

“This experience is very different from most other theater and performance,” explained Kayleigh, who starred as Maria in Lincoln Academy’s fall, 2017 production of West Side Story. “It is almost a whole year process of rehearsals and preparation for a 15 minute show, with one or two rehearsals each month. In a normal theater experience, the work is done in a shorter period of time and you must prepare for a full show, versus a small clip. It is fun working on perfecting 15 minutes–I never realized how much you could do with a performance so short! The work never ended!”

The Boothbay Y Arts team was made up of 18 actors between the ages of eight and 18. Emily Mirabile, director of the the Y-Arts program in Boothbay, leads the group, and the Seussical piece was directed by two high school seniors: director Rick Hilscher of North Yarmouth Academy and choreographer Jackie Mcloon of Boothbay Region High School. Both student directors performed in the piece and won awards for best student director and choreographer. “Working with Emily, Rick, and Jackie was one of the most fun experiences I have ever had, and I learned so much from all of them,” said Kayleigh.

“The festival itself is a dream for anyone who loves musical theater,” said Katherine. “There are a million opportunities to improve in all aspects of performance. There are singing, dancing, and acting workshops with Broadway professionals, chances and opportunities to learn from them and perform in the premiere of new Broadway junior musicals, and Broadway Choreography DVD auditions are held throughout the weekend. If you make it through, you get to spend a week in New York City filming and learning choreography for DVD’s. Many Broadway performers and composers give interviews at the festival, which is an incredible learning experience. This year composers Stephen Schwartz and Paul Williams attended!”

What made the difference to this year’s award-winning team? “I think this year’s success is due to the hard work of each person on our team,” said Kayleigh. “But also just the joy everyone had while performing. We had fun and enjoyed every second of it. I think the close bond this team had set us apart from past years as well. During rehearsals everyone always had a very loving and positive attitude.”

The Boothbay team will take the year off from the Junior theater festival in 2019, but they plan to be back in the future.