Aug. 07--A plan to build a performing arts center in Newtown, in honor of those who were slain at Sandy Hook last year, takes its first step with a production of the Broadway musical "Seussical," featuring Tony nominee John Tartaglia leading a cast made up of Newtown children.
The production is the work of the 1214 Foundation, which has been established in Newtown to build a performing arts center and to offer a wide variety of arts programs for children in the area.
"Seussical" is being presented at Newtown High School for four performances starting Friday, Aug. 9.
"It's a living memorial to those who were lost," producer Van Dean said of the planned performing arts center. "But meanwhile we want to do good in the community."
Dean, who produces shows in New York and runs a company that produces Broadway original cast albums, was one of the driving forces behind "From Broadway with Love," the star-studded Sandy Hook benefit at the Palace Theatre in Waterbury that was recently broadcast on PBS outlets.
"We all felt that was a very meaningful project and we wanted to build on what we started," the Fairfield resident said of putting "Seussical" together.
The show is giving 86 Newtown-area students (ages 5 to 18) the chance to work with "Avenue Q" star Tartaglia and other Broadway professionals for several weeks before they perform for their friends and neighbors.
In a separate interview, Michael Baroody, the founder and director of the 1214 Foundation, said that the construction of a performing arts center is still four or five years away, but meanwhile his organization wanted to sponsor programs like "Seussical" for the children in Newtown.
"Basically, we wanted to deal with what happened on 12/14 in a positive way," Baroody said of the foundation and its ambitious plans.
"We wanted to find a way to allow kids to grow -- not just to provide entertainment -- but to let them personally achieve something," he said of the intense rehearsals for the show.
"We want to use the arts to grow and prosper ... our concept is to do everything at the highest level. We're not babying these kids -- they are working eight hours a day, six days a week. We're pushing them to realize their potential and to see what they can do," he said.
While the nonprofit framework has been set up to achieve the goal of a Newtown performing arts center, Baroody stressed, "Our ultimate goal is not the building, but what will be going on in it."
The center will be open to all of the performing arts -- from dance to theater to rock music -- and Baroody said that range of work will be reflected in the special performances, like "Seussical," that will be given in Newtown over the next few years.
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Newtown High School, 12 Berkshire Road, Newtown. Friday, Aug. 9, 7 p.m.; Saturday, Aug. 10, 2 and 7 p.m.; Sunday, Aug. 11, 2 p.m. $20-$15. www.1214foundation.org.
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