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NewArts’ Summer ‘Seussical’ Looking To Expand Casting, Adds Audition



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With hopes of expanding casting options while broadening the opportunity for young thespians and singers to get involved in this summer’s NewArts production of Seussical The Musical, Director Michael Unger has announced an added audition period will be held virtually on Saturday, April 9, from 10 am to 3 pm.

The production is also looking for volunteers to sign on to serve in the backstage crew, and in other capacities as casting is completed.

Reflecting on auditions that already happened March 25 and 26, Unger told The Newtown Bee, “We’d love to include some more people — the more the merrier.”

“We really had a large percentage of [NewArts] newbies, which is really exciting, and a lot of new folks auditioning, so word of mouth is working,” he said.

Seussical has eight principal roles, Unger explained, but there is virtually unlimited potential for chorus members.

“And then, of course, there’s the dog,” Unger said, noting his own lovable pooch Cozmo may be tapped (or pawed) to reprise the part he played back in 2013.

Similar to the 2013 production, this summer’s Seussical will be staged in the newly renovated auditorium at Newtown High School the weekends of August 5-7 and 12-14.

What's It About?

According to Music Theatre International, which licenses the production for performance, Tony winners Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty (Lucky Stiff, My Favorite Year, Ragtime) brought to life several favorite Dr Seuss characters, including Horton the Elephant, The Cat in the Hat, Gertrude McFuzz, lazy Mayzie, and Jojo, a little boy with a big imagination.

These colorful characters weave their way through the production from the Jungle of Nool to the Circus McGurkus to the invisible world of the Whos. The Cat in the Hat character tells the story of Horton, an elephant who discovers a speck of dust that contains the Whos, including Jojo, a Who child sent off to military school for thinking too many “thinks.”

Horton faces a double challenge: not only must he protect the Whos from a world of naysayers and dangers, but he must also guard an abandoned egg, left in his care by the irresponsible Mayzie La Bird. Although Horton faces ridicule, danger, kidnapping and a trial, the intrepid Gertrude McFuzz never loses faith in him.

Ultimately, the powers of friendship, loyalty, family, and community are challenged and emerge triumphant.

Touching, Funny & Colorful

“It’s very touching, very funny, and very colorful,” Unger said. “We’ve actually saved all the scenery from 2013. It’s all cardboard, and stunningly painted and preserved in [NewArts Founder] Michael Baroody’s basement.”

Unger said he is hoping to cast the entire show locally, making room for the possibility of inviting others for consideration if necessary.

Anyone entering first grade through college — and anyone who was part of the 2013 NewArts production of Seussical — is invited to audition. Actors should prepare a short song or part of a song to be sung a capella; a monologue, poem, or reading from a book. The timing for both should not exceed three minutes.

Rehearsals will be Monday through Friday, July 5-August 5, from 9 am to 3 pm, at Newtown Congregational Church and the high school. There will be additional afternoon/evening times closer to the performances.

There will be two casts who will each have four performances.

Using The Arts To Heal

While discussing this summer’s planned production, Unger took a moment to look back on NewArts 2013 production that he helped bring to the community to engage and uplift youths and residents alike, still reeling from 12/14. He recalled that after meeting Baroody following a Sandy Hook memorial concert Unger directed at the Waterbury Palace Theater, their first discussions were around creating a performing arts center in Newtown.

“His idea was to use the arts to help Newtown kids and the community heal — helping to empower them so they wouldn’t be framed to the world as victims,” Unger said. “But while we talked about forming this eventual arts center, I thought, why wait, we could start doing something that summer. So we put the whole show together in three months.”

The only show Unger could think of that was about protecting a community was Seussical The Musical.

“One of the most moving moments of my directing career was during one of our rehearsals talking about how the world failed to protect Newtown that day, and how this little boy gets a chance to protect this community he believes in so strongly,” he said. “Of course through a child’s lens it had so many touch points related to that place and that time, so there was no other show in my mind. And it revealed itself to be even more healing and powerful than I could ever imagine.”

Unger said while most people stage Seussical because it’s a blast, “we did it in response to one of the most horrible tragedies to ever befall this country and the children of the world.”

“I felt we had a responsibility to those kids to tell a powerful story that could make a difference,” Unger said, “and it really did.”

Learn more about NewArts or make an appointment for the April 9 auditions at newarts.org.

Those interested in signing up for tech (costumes, props, scenery work, backstage work, etc) should contact Maryrose Kristopic at MKristopik@1214foundation.org.

Editor John Voket can be reached at john@thebee.com.

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