Disney-Themed 'FUN-draiser' Dazzled, Supported Autism Respite, Research
The 2019 Disney-themed concert for Families United in Newtown (FUN) was true to its name — “Dazzle” — and it did not disappoint attendees who enjoyed newer hits and classic favorites from many films and cartoons made famous by the renowned imagineer.
As in years past, FUN Founder Linda Jones and musical director and arranger Hafez Taghavi successfully mixed expert musicians with up-and-coming talents, including several who are also longtime participants in the organization’s programs for this Seventh Annual event. The concert also welcomed back headliner and New Jersey’s YouTube sensation Jodi DiPiazza.
“Jodi began improvising piano at age 3 and started taking lessons at age 7, despite her struggle with autism spectrum disorder,” Ms Jones noted. “We love having Jodi share her amazing talent with us every year. Jodi has performed with pop star Katy Perry, ‘Weird Al’ Yankovic, and most recently, Cynthia Erivo.”
The evening began with a light movie-themed dinner along with a huge display of raffle and silent auction offerings in the Great Room of Newtown Congregational Church. Following the show, attendees were invited to sample desserts and take the opportunity to meet the performers as well as kick off their shoes and dance to DJ tunes.
Master of Ceremonies Jay Thomas kept the program moving, and Technical Director Bob Keegan ensured the sound balance was optimal for the corps of performers. The concert was also punctuated with remarks from local officials, including First Selectman Dan Rosenthal and State Representative Mitch Bolinsky.
The program opened with and was supported throughout by The Newtown Mouseketeers Band: Tim McCarthy (trumpet), Bryce Doherty (trombone), Jacob Clements (baritone saxophone), Michael Spanedda (drums), Ally Kenny (flute), Thomas Hasselberger (soprano saxophone), Ryan Brown (alto saxophone), and Andrew Buzzi (tenor saxophone).
Kevin Eckler, Amber Harris and Austin Jones followed, performing the “Pirates of the Caribbean Theme.”
Jodi DiPiazza arranged her own lengthy medley of familiar classic and contemporary Disney tunes, before Jennifer and Ryan Sokira offered “Love is an Open Door” from Frozen.
Amanda B. Goodman performed “Part of Your World” from The Little Mermaid accompanied by the violin trio of Lindsey Jones, Sophia Spraggins, and Isaac Ohring.
Following a brief intermission, Chris Samson and Shaun Mangold sang the Oscar-winning “You’ve Got a Friend in Me” from Toy Story and “Under the Sea” from Little Mermaid. They were followed by Ms Jones and Ms DiPiazza’s rendition of “Waltz of the Flowers” from the groundbreaking Fantasia. That performance also featured an interpretive dance by Chelsea Fowler, Annie Fowler, Fallyn Kirlin, Annelise Raedy, and Taegan Smith.
Then it was time for Chris Simon’s performance of “It’s a Small World” followed by a sax quartet from the Mouseketeers backing band playing a Thomas Hasselberger arrangement called “Disney for the Saxes.”
Carolyn Wolf was next up, singing “He’s a Tramp” from Lady and the Tramp, followed by Madi Aug and Brittany Watson delivering their own arrangement of “I See the Light” from Tangled, accompanied by Mr Taghavi on violin.
Sabrina Spraggins and Shaun Mangold closed the musical portion of the event with the ever-popular “Hakuna Matata” from Lion King.
Other highpoints of the evening included a presentation of a donation check to famed autism researcher Dr Margaret Bauman, as well as a recognition of National Honors Society students who had supported FUN programming throughout their time at Newtown High School.
Anyone with a child or teen on the spectrum is invited to attend any FUN activities, which are generally held monthly during the school year.