The 12.14 Foundation’s production of Seussical: The Musical had audiences singing along with the cast of Newtown’s children during their four productions in the Newtown High School auditorium that ran over the course of August 9, 10, and 11.
The 12.14 Foundation, founded by Michael Baroody, a Newtown resident, was created after the tragic events of 12/14. The objective of the foundation is “to build a landmark Performing Arts Centre in Newtown, Connecticut, in memory of those lost on December 14, 2012.”
As Dr Baroody previously told The Bee, Seussical: The Musical is the first of many planned productions to come from the 12.14 Foundation.
The same three individuals who brought Broadway to Newtown with their production of “From Broadway With Love: A Benefit Concert for Sandy Hook,” which took place in Waterbury back in January, also led the production of Seussical, with Michael Unger as director, Jeffrey Saver as musical director, and Tony Award-winning producer Van Dean as executive producer.
“We loved every minute of working with the kids,” Mr Dean said. “Newtown’s children are strong, resilient, passionate, and welcoming.
After the production, it is clear too that the two casts sharing the stage, comprised of 84 of Newtown’s youth, are quite talented too.
“We treated them like professionals,” Mr Dean said. “So they raised themselves to meet the standard we had set.”
Mr Unger had the same sentiment.
“We can’t take any responsibility for the talent,” he said. “The authors of Seussical even came to see the show, and were amazed to discover that these kids are not professional actors.”
Seussical: The Musical had two casts, the “Lorax” and the “Sneetch” casts, respectively, with the ages of the actors ranging from 5 to 18.
“In school, kids are separated by age group, but this gave them the opportunity to all work together,” Mr Dean said. “It created a community.”
Mr Unger spoke similarly, but also added that Seussical, while a play about Dr Seuss, also had very profound messages that made it universally accessible by the range of ages involved.
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!
“The show had all of these wonderful messages about protecting and creating community,” he said. “We realized during production that the dust speck Horton was trying to save is Newtown, and like how Horton was given a second chance to protect it, we too have been given a second chance to protect Newtown.”
Additionally, Mr Unger spoke of his surprise at how quickly everything came together, with auditions and rehearsals running just about five weeks.
“While there were many professionals involved, there were kids helping in virtually every department of the production,” Mr Unger said. “It was the perfect show for this town, these kids, and this time.”
Mr Dean observed that the children fed off of each other’s positive vibes while on stage.
“You could feel the joy emanating from the stage,” he said. “It really exceeded our expectations in every possible way.”
Additionally, Mr Dean was touched as he watched the cast comfort each other in times of sadness, especially when the weekend of shows came to a close.
He noted that while the kids were extremely sad after Sunday’s production, they were clearly so appreciative of what Seussical gave to them.
“We could all tell that they were really changed from the experience,” Mr Dean said. “It allowed them to be kids again.”
Becca Hernan, production stage manager for the show, described her experience as “life-changing.”
“The cast was wonderful, the crew was remarkable, and the audience was right there with us from the first note at opening to the last chord at closing,” she shared.
Mr Unger shared his amazement at the efforts of all of the parents, who dropped everything to help in every department of the production.
“That just doesn’t happen on Broadway,” he said.
Additionally, Mr Unger spoke of his joy at being welcomed into the community as one of its own.
“Leading this production taught me a lot about courage and resilience,” he said. “I’ve learned that community is the medicine for all of our ills.”
Mr Dean would also like to thank Newtown for making the visitors from Broadway feel like members of their community.
“Now, there is no separation between Newtown and Broadway,” Mr Dean shared. “We are all one family.”
Further information about the 12.14 Foundation is available at www.1214foundation.org.