Like the students who quickly went from sight reading the song “Green Eggs and Ham” to singing it within a matter of minutes on Tuesday, July 30, Seussical: The Musical is coming together for its set performance dates of Friday and Saturday, August 9 and 10, at 7 pm, and Saturday and Sunday, August 10 and 11, at 2 pm.
Seussical: The Musical, written by Tony Award-winning team Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty, was chosen as the inaugural production of the 12.14 Foundation, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization based in Newtown. The foundation started with the vision of creating a performing arts center in town, “to honor those lost in the tragic events of December 14, 2012, at the Sandy Hook Elementary School,” reads its website, www.1214foundation.org.
The three main forces behind “From Broadway With Love: A Benefit Concert for Sandy Hook,” which took place in January in Waterbury, are reprising their roles for this production. Michael Unger is directing, Jeffrey Saver is serving as musical director, and Tony Award-winning producer Van Dean is executive producing.
The 12.14 Foundation was founded by Michael Baroody, MD, a plastic surgeon and resident of Newtown. The board includes Richard Pilbrow, Frederick Holahan, Richard Ticktin, and Michael Price.
“We have 86 local Newtown kids, from ages 5 to 18,” said Mr Unger, when describing the cast for the production, adding that Emmy Award, Tony Award, and Drama Desk Award-nominated John Tartaglia is also set to portray The Cat in the Hat, the lead in Seussical: The Musical.
“We’ve brought a professional production team, director, choreographer, musical director, production manager, and designers from New York,” said Mr Unger, “and we are working with the students.”
In addition to the cast and Mr Tartaglia, Mr Unger said the production was also able to offer apprenticeships to local students.
“Everyone is getting a great learning experience as we bring the arts to this community,” Mr Unger said.
Rehearsals for the production began earlier in July, and by Tuesday, the students involved were working together seamlessly.
Seussical: The Musical incorporates many of Dr Seuss’s popular characters into one story, which follows the Cat in the Hat telling the story of Horton, from Horton Hears a Who!.
Dr Baroody said the concept behind his foundation is to respond to what happened in Sandy Hook last December “with a living breathing dynamic remembrance, with a focus on hope for the future.”
“Our ultimate goal is to use the performing arts as a tool to help kids affected by tragedy overcome what happened,” Dr Baroody said, “as well as strengthen and enrich their lives in order to move forward in life.”
Through working with the students, Dr Baroody said he has seen the students come together.
“None of what they are doing is easy,” said Dr Baroody, “and that’s one of the main concepts of this as well; to push them to reach their potential.”
Dr Baroody said people should come out to see Seussical: The Musical to show support for the students and to see an incredible production.
“Performing arts is basically an interaction between the audience and the performers, so if the performers are children who have been traumatized by this event, then it is our responsibility to be there for them,” Dr Baroody said. “And I feel that whoever comes to this musical is going to get just as much out of it as the performers are going to get out of it.”
While Seussical: The Musical is the first production, Dr Baroody said the 12.14 Foundation plans to make productions like it, a series.
“It’s going to be an ongoing thing, and our ultimate goal is to build a performing arts center with a premier school for the performing arts to ultimately have a global outreach to kind of help kids all around the world,” said Dr Baroody.
Mr Unger said the Seussical: The Musical authors were excited to have it be the first production of the 12.14 Foundation. He also said he is going to have a hard time figuring out which show to do next, since Seussical: The Musical is such a perfect match with the spirit of fostering creative talent within a supportive community.
“This musical in particular is unbelievably full of joy and imagination. It’s all about joy and imagination. The 12.14 Foundation’s mission is to build a performing arts center as a living remembrance for those who were lost, and there is nothing like that that has ever been done before in the world, that we know of,” said Mr Unger.
Many vendors have also donated equipment for the production, according to Mr Unger.
“I would say we’ve got a $300,000 production here, but most of that is donated,” said Mr Unger. “So it is going to be quite a show. You can’t beat 86 local kids having an amazing time. So go to the website [www.1214foundation.org/seussical]… Get your tickets now.”
Performances of Seussical: The Musical will be held at Newtown high School Friday and Saturday, August 9 and 10, at 7 pm, and Saturday and Sunday, August 10 and 11, at 2 pm. Tickets are available for purchase online and are still available at www.1214foundation.org/seussical. Tickets for adults are $20, students and senior citizens are $15.