When more than 100 students from the Newtown area go back to school in the Fall, they will have some amazing tales to tell of their summer.
For the last 5 weeks, a dedicated team of Broadway professionals – led by 3 of the same individuals who produced a Broadway tribute to the Newtown community in Waterbury last January – has been working with more than 100 Newtown area students in a production of Seussical the Musical. It is the first of what is to be many tangible practices in healing offered by the 12.14 Foundation (the foundation's president and founder, Newtown resident Michael Baroody, serves as Executive Producer of this production). It is comfort and healing in the true sense. As director Michael Unger works with the cast on their roles, he encourages them to look inward to develop their characters. This is what will eventually be a hallmark program of the 12.14 Foundation as it seeks to strengthen Newtown's youth through the arts. It is something that is mentioned often among these budding artists: that sense of camaraderie and strength.
"I think 12.14 Foundation's first production of Seussical is really remarkable," said Kieran Minor who plays the Mayor of Whoville. "The fact thatSeussical is trying to create a sort of routine or some sort of structure that we can have for hopefully a long time [is amazing] – and arts is the perfect way to heal."
"These people coming in and helping us put this show together just shows the care, respect, and support they have for our town," said Madi Aug who plays a Birdgirl in the production. "It's just amazing that we're not the only people who haven't stopped thinking about what happened in Sandy Hook," she said. "And the show specifically relates to our situation," she added. "The planet Who is a place that has gone through hardships and a lot of tough times – and then Horton the elephant comes along and helps them keep safe and helps them heal. I feel like this show and everyone involved in it are like the 'Hortons of Newtown' because they're really helping us get through and heal through this situation. It really means a lot to me and everyone in this town."
Life Changing Experiences
In this production of Seussical, eighty-four student performers ages five to eighteen from the Newtown area will be directed by Michael Unger, an established theater and opera director. They will also work with Jennifer Paulson Lee, an accomplished choreographer, and. Jeffery Saver, a successful Broadway musical director. The production will also offer twenty apprenticeship positions to junior and senior high school students as they work one-on-one with equally talented pros in the fields of choreography, musical direction, stage management, stage crew, lighting design, prop construction, costume design and construction, sound design, and technical direction. Local support will be provided by Newtown area professionals from within the arts and education fields.
"I personally feel that it is all of our responsibility to support these children and young adults most affected by 12.14," said Michael Baroody, 12.14 Foundation founder. "Not in a way that pities them but rather through their hard work, discipline, and commitment to the production. The students are being treated like professional actors and they are realizing their potential for excellence. This is giving them inner strength and confidence needed to overcome their feelings about the tragedy and enrich their lives for the future. They deserve it."
The 12.14 Foundation recently announced that Emmy Award, Tony Award, and Drama Desk Award nominated John Tartaglia (Avenue Q, Shrek, Johnny and the Sprites) will portray "The Cat in the Hat" and lead a cast comprised of eighty-four Newtown area students in Seussical: The Musicalwritten by Tony Award® winning team Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty. The production will be presented August 9, 10 and 11 at Newtown High School.
Seussical authors Ahrens and Flaherty (Ragtime, Once on This Island, My Favorite Year, A Man of No Importance and the upcoming Rocky musical) said, "We are grateful and honored that our show has been selected as the inaugural production of the 12.14 Foundation."
There are also volunteer opportunities for adults in the Newtown community who may want to get involved, as well as opportunities for musicians of any age to join the orchestra.
The three main forces behind "FROM BROADWAY WITH LOVE: A Benefit Concert for Sandy Hook", which took place on January 28, 2013 at the Palace Theatre in Waterbury, CT, will reprise their duties on this production. Michael Unger (international theatre and opera director, A Christmas Carol - McCarter Theatre, The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee - world premiere) will direct, Jeffrey Saver (End of the Rainbow, Chicago, Sister Act - and 15 other Broadway shows) will musical direct and Tony Award® winning producer, Van Dean (Rodger and Hammerstein's Cinderella, Porgy and Bess, Matilda - and seven other Broadway shows) will produce. Jennifer Paulson Lee (City of Angels - Goodspeed, Annie Get Your Gun - Lincoln Center, Enter Laughing - York Theatre/Mark Taper Forum) will choreograph. Other established theatre professionals will complete the creative team. Ahrens and Flaherty, as well as several Broadway performers, will visit some of the rehearsals and performances.
Performances are August 9th and 10th at 7:00 PM and August 10th and 11th at 2:00 PM. There will be two casts with two performances each. Performances will take place at Newtown High School, 12 Berkshire Rd, Newtown, CT 06482. Tickets are $22 for the general public and $17 for seniors/students which includes a credit card convenience fee. For more information and to purchase tickets, please visit www.1214foundation.org/seussical. NOTE: This production is not affiliated with the Newtown school district.
About The 12.14 Foundation
The Foundation was founded by Michael Baroody, M.D., a plastic surgeon and resident of Newtown. The board also includes Richard Pilbrow (esteemed lighting designer and creator of Theatre Projects Consultants who have overseen the construction of over 1,200 major theatres and performing arts centers around the globe), Frederick Holahan (a software executive and entrepreneur). Richard Ticktin (noted New York entertainment lawyer), Chris Monteleone (media and entertainment specialist), and Michael Price (founder and Chief Executive Director of Goodspeed Musicals). The Foundation's vision is to build The Newtown Performing Arts Center Centre to remember, to honor, to heal, and to inspire - with a focus on hope for the future. This haven of the arts will be inter-disciplinary in nature, offering programming in theatre, music, dance, opera and fine arts. More information can be found at www.1214foundation.org. All proceeds from the show go to the 12.14 Foundation.
Questions? Contact David Deschenes at 203-858-8404