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Paulini joins junior musical theatre celebration in Newcastle


Australian Idol alumni Paulini will join the nation’s largest celebration of young people and musical theatre in Newcastle this month.

The artist who rose to fame in 2003 as a contestant on the inaugural season of the reality television program, placing fourth, is expected to appear alongside special guests Daniel J. Mertzlufft and Sofia Nolan for the annual Junior Theatre Festival (JTF) at the Civic Theatre on 28 and 29 October.

Thanks to support from Music Theatre International Australasia (MTIA), City of Newcastle and Travel Gang, the event brings pupils, teachers and industry professionals together to acknowledge outstanding student musical theatre productions.

Composer Mertzlufft (Ratatouille, The Tik Tok Musical) will be on hand to debut a portion of Dot and the Kangaroo JR. – a Broadway Junior musical based on the beloved Australian children’s book.

He, along with his collaborators book writer Daniel Stoddart and lyricist Kate Leonard, will also offer an interactive presentation about the adaptation and development process of the new musical.

Paulini is scheduled to delight audiences with a magical performance for all attendees on 29 October, too.

Mertzlufft, Leonard, Paulini and Broadway JR. graduate Nolan will talk candidly about their experiences as professionals during the festival’s onstage “Pathways” Q&A session.

The New Works Showcase event features special student performances of new Broadway JR. musicals, Disney’s Finding Nemo JR., Godspell JR. and Dot and the Kangaroo JR.

Other selected JTF Australia pupils will also present Beetlejuice JR. and 9 to 5 JR., which are in development for elementary and middle school performers.

Australian theatre personalities David Rogers-Smith (Les Misérables, The Phantom of the Opera), Nina Meehan (founding director of Bay Area Children’s Theatre, CA), Olivia Charalambous (Puffs, Spring Awakening), along with iTheatrics’ Marty Johnson and MTI’s chief operating officer John Prignano, will unite with Mertzlufft as adjudicators at the first in-person JTF Australia event since COVID lockdowns.

“The growth and evolution of Broadway Junior here in Australia and New Zealand has been one of the most rewarding parts of my career,” Musical Theatre International Australasia managing director Stuart Hendricks said.

“I look forward to introducing Dot and the Kangaroo JR. and the other fantastic Broadway Junior musicals to our global theatre community.”

Stoddart, who is currently presenting Jersey Boys to Newcastle audiences at the Civic Theatre, said the 2022 Junior Theatre Festival Australia was its seventh edition – and fifth in-person.

“From the beginning, we have worked with New York-based iTheatrics to make sure this event shines a spotlight on the importance of young people having access to quality musical theatre programs,” he explained.

“Our JTF family continues to grow and inspire us.

“At the festival and back in their communities, these teachers and students encourage each other to find more and more creative ways to get their musicals on stage and to build stronger programs.”

“MTI created Broadway Junior musicals in 1996, and over the past 25-plus years, there have been thousands of educators, performers and audience members who have experienced the joy of these shows,” president and CEO of Music Theatre International Drew Cohen added.

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