From the Mount Tabor Arts Collaborative:
The Mount Tabor Arts Collaborative musical theater summer camp presents Suessical Jr. this Saturday, July 22, 2017, at 7pm in The Tabernacle at 26 Simpson Ave. in Mount Tabor.
Suessical The Musical opened on Broadway in 2000 as a compilation story including a dozen of Dr. Suess’s greatest hits, with major characters from Horton Hears a Who, The Cat and the Hat, and Gertrude McFuzz.
Dawn Ward-Lau, director and choreographer of this production of Suessical Jr., has been creating programs and performances in Hudson and Essex counties for nearly 20 years.
The Lau family moved to Morris County last year and brought with them contacts, experience, and commitment to their new hometown. The unusual combination of a neighborhood with its own theater, open space building, park and public library have created a campus-like setting for the two-week summer camp.
The town of Mount Tabor was developed in the late 1800s as a summer retreat and revival community for the Methodist Church.
While the community’s religious ways have long gone, the walkable spaces in Mount Tabor naturally come alive in the summer. The Mount Tabor Methodist Church has a prime spot on the hill and is host to the practice spaces for dance and set painting of Suessical Jr.
“It’s exciting to see Mount Tabor explode with activity in the summer. It’s how this community was intended and how these walkable spaces were desiged,” says Jessica Curry, president of Mount Tabor’s Children’s Day, a three-day celebration of children later in the summer. Her daughter will be on stage in Suessical Jr.
At the core of the Suessical story are the wild imaginations of Jo-Jo (played by Rhaya Lau) and The Cat in The Hat (played by Alison “Squeeze” Paterno).
They have created a world outside the normalcy of home and school; a magical place called the Jungle of Nool. Horton (played by Vianne Bozza) is an empathetic elephant who works to save a tiny world discovered on a speck of dust, a speck that he must protect at all costs, creating a frenzy of loyalty and friendship amidst doubt.
Jo-Jo’s parents, Mr. and Mrs. Mayor (played by Vincent Bozza and Ava Cohen) do their best to put a stop to their daughter’s wild imagination, but the Suessical magic is quite strong.
Back in the Jungle, Horton has additional complications to manage, with Mayzie (played by Juliana Johnston), Gertrude McFuzz (played by Maya Lau) and Bird Girl (played by Gracie Miller).
The show is rounded out by comically cool characters The Wickershams (played by Levi and Soren Morici) and the diva Sour Kangaroo (played by Bella Bozza). Four more invaluable kids will add to evening production, without gracing the lit stage.
Sophia Rodriguez is the Master of Props with a three person stage crew including AJ Imperati, Daniel Gardner, and Rachel Klemovitch. This team, and a dozen other talented kids ages 7-17, have shared their gifts in quieter ways.
Sophie Roth says, “I like watching and listening to the show while working on the sets. Everyone has been helpful. When they’re not on stage, they help me paint.” Creating a theater production involves roles for everyone.
Melissa Wood, art teacher at Kent Place School, has been involved with the visual experience of the show.
“This theater camp isn’t just for performers. The arts and tech side of theater allows so many opportunities of engagement to come together with a single goal. That ability to work together, to experience that no member of an ensemble is any more important than another, will help these kids for the rest of their lives.”
The Mount Tabor Arts Collaborative says its summer camp “is about the process. In our acting classes, kids learn public speaking, to think off the top of their heads. Through improvisation we are creating problem solvers, team players, and inventors,” says Ward-Lau.
Her style is to teach with her entire body– and students respond in kind.
“Acting is a full body affair. It’s acting, and reacting. Kids have a voice in this world and theater invites that voice at every level,” says Ward-Lau.
Music Director Sandi Zimmerman, retired from Newark Academy, taught the music and the lyrics to the 11 kids who will be on stage. But she has also shown them how to sell the songs, how to interpret them, and how to act their way through the music.
Jennifer Roth, parent and visual artist, says, “I’m blown away by the singing and dancing skills of these kids. After spending my days painting sets, sewing costumes, and building props while the kids rehearse, I find myself singing Suessical tunes at home.”
Many parents note how their children are happy and exhausted after camp. Mount Tabor resident Tina Miller has loved seeing her daughter Gracie, age 9, “come out of her shell. She’s definitely more confident and has found her singing voice.”
Gracie Miller loves that she gets to be in so many different scenes. These youngsters can hardly wait for Saturday to show what they can do on.
Here are 10 more reasons not to miss the show:
1. SUESSICAL IS A GREAT STORY WITH AN EVEN BETTER MESSAGE:
Horton, the empathetic elephant, must protect the Who’s in Whoville. “I’ll just have to save (them) because after all, a person’s a person, no matter how small.”
2. TEN BUCKS, FREE PARKING, AND CLOSE TO HOME:
This show is a low-cost, low-pressure, way to introduce your kids to local theater. Squirmy? No problem. With a ticket price of just ten dollars, all of which goes to the nonprofit Collaborative, you can’t go wrong.
3. DIRECTOR DAWN WARD-LAU IS NEW TO MORRIS COUNTY, BUT NOT NEW TO KIDS AND THEATER:
Her 10-day camp combines excellence with a “Theater for All” attitude. “Dawn pulls out the next level from the kids– and definitely empowers them with confidence on the stage,” says Danielle Merzatta, a local visual artist who helped with painting.
4. THIS PROGRAM IS INCLUSIVE
Students don’t have to audition. “We work with the strengths AND complexities of the group. I don’t teach acting to make actors, I teach acting to have an avenue for children to feel comfortable in their own skin. We find the bar and then we raise it. And we leave rehearsals flying,” says Ward-Lau.
5. THE COSTUMES AND WIGS ARE AMAZING:
Actor and artist Rebecca Schall VanDuzer has created head gear to match exceptional costumes, many on loan from the Orbit Arts Academy in Atlanta, GA. VanDuzer insists, “For kids to have access to this level of professionalism so close to home is such a gift. Both to the actors and the audience!” she says.
6. THE MUSIC IS FUN, FUN, FUN:
Suessical Jr.’s hit songs include the uplifting, It’s Possible and the emotional Alone in the Universe. The entire cast chimes in for Oh, the Thinks You Can Think. Bird Girl Gracie Miller, age 9, says her favorite song is Amazing Mayzie. What will be yours?
7. DISCOVER WHAT MUSICAL THEATER CAMP IS LIKE
Mornings have included sessions in Acting, Theater Games, Blocking, and Character Analysis. In the afternoons, scenes are built together with Music, Dance, and Choreography. Every day has some open time at the playground, downtime after lunch, and of course, plenty of arts and crafts as the sets and props come together piece by piece.
8. KIDS THAT WORK THIS HARD DESERVE A GREAT AUDIENCE
What better way to spend a Saturday evening than to generously receive the magic of this play! Tickets are available for cash at the door or online at www.showtix4u.com.
9. IT’S LIVE THEATER & THERE’S NO SECOND CHANCE
In this age of video consumption and virtual reality play, live theater has an even greater potential to impress. It comes and goes, like Brigadoon.
10. THIS IS A CAMP YOUR KIDS COULD ATTEND TOO
These kids may be the first to experience the Collaborative’s musical theater camp, but they won’t be the last. Director and Choreographer Dawn Ward-Lau already has her eyes on next summer.