NAPLES, Fla - A Southwest Florida theater program gets national recognition and a standing ovation from a tony award winning director.
20 kids from Naples competed in the only National competition for musical theater and they came away with the top prize.
The kids rehearse at the Naples Performing Arts Center. This weekend in Atlanta they competed against 4,000 kids from all across the country and they walked away with first place after just a few months of rehearsals.
The Naples Performing Art Center has been open for less than a year. With art programs being the first to go in public schools, the music, dance and drama studio gives kids a creative outlet.
"Where they're lacking in their school programs we are able to meet and fill that gap after school," says Lori Ridge, owner and director of Naples Performing Art Center.
And, within the first year, the studio has it's first trophy. This past weekend, the kids took their talents to the National Junior Theater Festival and performed Beauty and the Beast Jr.
Out of 83 schools they came home with the top prize in excellence in acting.
"When we got on stage, the adrenaline kicked in and we were really good," says 13 year old Zachary Gibson who played Lumiere in the musical.
"It was just incredible," says 12-year-old Alexandra Igoe, who was one of two actresses to play the lead Belle. "I never thought I'd be able to do something like this so I was excited, I was excited for our whole team."
The kids performed Disney's Beauty and the Beast Jr. They couldn't use costumes or props and they only had 15 minutes to show the judges their best stuff.
"Jeff Calhoun, who is a Tony award winner director, said these kids embody the reason we are here and he was very emotional and choked up," says Ridge. "They nailed it. They were amazing."
It was their fifteen minutes of fame and fifteen minutes that will give them the confidence to continue singing, dancing and performing.
"I want to be on broadway when I'm older," says 12 year old Maggie Boswell. "I just get a sense of joy when I'm performing for people."
Up next, the Naples Performing Arts Center will hold auditions for the musical Annie. Auditions are February 11 and are open to the public. For more information head to www.naplesperformingartscenter.com