A ROCKIN’ MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM @ The 12.14 Foundation
Book by William Shakespeare, Music by Eric Svejcar, Lyrics by William Shakespeare, Eric Svejcar and Michael Unger
Also Conceived, Co-Adapted and Produced. Executive Producer: Dr. Michael Baroody, M.D., Music Direction by Jeffrey Saver, Choreography by Jennifer Paulson Lee, Orchestrations by Kim Scharnberg, Set Design by Brian Prather, Lighting Design by Ben Hagan, Costume Design by Kristina Sneshkoff, Sound Design by Alex Neumann, Production Stage Manager: Kristin Loughry, Production Manager: Erik Viker, Co-Producer: Van Dean
Production Photos by Richard Termine
(Reviews below photos and videos.)
Broadway troupers share the spotlight with students from Newtown, CT in A Rockin’ Midsummer Night’s Dream – The show (in rep with a musical version of 101 Dalmatians) is the latest offering of the 12.14 Foundation. The nonprofit initiative is the brainchild of Newtown resident Dr. Michael Baroody, working with director Michael Unger. The idea behind the foundation is to use the performing arts as a way to heal the community—especially children and teens still processing the event. A Rockin’ Midsummer Night’s Dream is a playful, lighthearted but touching riff on Shakespeare’s comedy, with an eclectic pop-rock score by Eric Svejcar (played by a lavish 33-piece orchestra) and new lyrics by Svejcar and Unger… staged with professional sheen and bounce by Unger. There’s an inherent sweetness in seeing adults and children share the stage, and Midsummer’s themes of adoption, parental anxiety and the healing power of love came through strongly. Plus, whose heart doesn’t melt at the sight of seven-year-old fairy girls dancing in formation? I see a lot of theater that seems to exist purely to make a buck or fill a quota; here was art deeply connected to a community and making a difference in people’s lives. The long-term goal of 12.14 Foundation is to establish a performing-arts center in Newtown, “a unique, multi-purpose facility that attracts world-class performers… representing our feelings and memories, that will also be a beacon of hope for the future,” according to press materials. It’s a wonderful mission. In the wake of war or catastrophe, or an atrocity such as the one at Newtown, the conventional civil response is to erect a mute slab of rock or metal. Better to raise money and gather resources for a living, breathing monument that will get kids on their feet—laughing, talking, dancing and singing. At least, that’s the dream. (Time Out)
This must have been one of the best summers for Shakespeare in Connecticut, but the 12.14 Foundation’s production of A Rockin’ Midsummer Night’s Dream tops them all – and has set a new bar for presenting the works of the Bard. The music is not just the sweet and pleasant kind that would fit in Elizabethan England. There are some nice, soft numbers, and then there is some terrific pop-rock music that makes other Shakespeare productions, even those that are done in contemporary style, seem done a gazillion times and leaden in comparison. Svejcar’s music, with a 33-piece orchestra, doesn’t just enhance the show. It brings A Midsummer Night’s Dream to a higher level. Now I can’t imagine seeing A Midsummer Night’s Dream as anything but a musical. The cast is a combination of Broadway and Off-Broadway and amateur performers and they work very well together. Let’s pray to the fairies of the theatre that A Rockin’ Midsummer Night’s Dream will land on the Great White Way because it deserves a long run and bigger audiences. (Broadway World)
If you are interested in seeing a Broadway level production of a brand new musical, you must head to nearby Newtown High School to see an upcoming performance of 1214 Foundation’s magnificent A ROCKIN’ Midsummer Night’s Dream. Yes, it features young performers; trust me, you will soon forget that they are children and teens because every one of them is that talented. Yes, it is based on the Shakespeare comedy of same name (minus the ROCKIN’ of course) but even the young will be able to follow along and they will love the fairies, the comedy, the amazing new music, and did I mention that the most adorable little dog Cosmo Unger returns for a cameo? My expectations were very high after last year’s Seussical, which was tops on my top 10 list of young actor productions for 2103. Without spoiling its impact, you have to see it to believe how beautifully this set changes throughout the show. The 33-piece orchestra (featuring seven violins, two violas and three cellos no less) under the direction of music director Jeffrey Saver sounded better than a Broadway orchestra. How blessed we are to have a production of this quality be presented so close to home at an affordable price. Do not miss the chance to see this magical production. (On Stage)
Review of our 54 Below Concert – Stars Cast
“If we shadows have offended… Think but this, and all is mended” – Such beautiful words to put to music, and such a poignant and powerful theme to utilize as a healing mechanism not only for anyone who listens, but most preciously for the kids, families, and residents of Newtown, CT.
A Rockin’ Midsummer Night’s Dream is a cleverly depicted musical adaptation of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. With musical composition by Eric Svejcar, and additional lyrics, adaptation, and direction by Michael Unger, this production is an absolute must see and there is no doubt in my mind that it is Broadway bound. This musical was meticulously written and chosen for the kids of Newtown, CT as part of the 12.14 Foundation which was created to help foster strengthening and relief for the community after the tragic event that took place on December 14, 2012. It was an overwhelming experience to see these powerhouse kids take the stage, embracing themselves in the power of the arts, with their proud families in the audience having a blast watching their kids have the time of their lives.
Now let me just start by saying; I would have thought I stepped into star studded cast of Broadway professionals had I not known the back story of these artists. Every single one of these performers, with ages ranging from 5 to 20, was evidently well trained, connected to their characters, and each took ownership of their individual personalities, celebrating their own self-expression in doing so… Kudos to this direction decision Michael Unger!
Something I loved about the adaptation and composition of the production is that it celebrated Shakespeare’s words, rather than overshadowed them. This musical wasn’t forcefully trying to be its own thing, or even its own interpretation. It was simply a celebration of this beloved play, set to an incredible score that did nothing but enhance the meaning of Shakespeare’s already powerful language. Too often, I have seen Shakespeare done almost too creatively to the extent that you lose the message. Michael Unger did the exact opposite with this production. He seized an opportunity to take the message of A Midsummer Night’s Dream and put a megaphone behind it. The beautiful melodies and harmonies written by Eric Svejcar combined with the back story of the performers who are singing these words, strengthens and honors Shakespeare’s message that love heals.This message couldn’t have been better executed than with my favorite song which closes the show, “If We Shadows Have Offended” sung by the talented Jane Shearin, as Puck, and then accompanied by the rest of the cast. The delivery of the song was comparable to that of “Seasons of Love” from Rent or “Purple Summer” from Spring Awakening; breaking the fourth wall to directly speak to the audience, revealing the lesson to be learned. It is impossible to watch this moment without watery eyes and goose bumps storming your skin. This was such brilliant direction because it exposes the audience, as the cast essentially says, “look what we discovered together.”
In conclusion, A Rockin’ Midsummer Night’s Dream is truly an experience to be remembered, a show to be repeated, and a score to be stuck in your head thereafter. I was truly stunned to see the talent of the youth of Newtown, overjoyed to see such bliss in their eyes as they performed such beautiful songs, and genuinely thankful for this adaptation of Shakespeare’s words. I definitely see a big future for this production, so do yourself a favor and don’t miss an opportunity experience this wonderful masterpiece. (Broadway Voice)
TReview of our 54 Below Concert – Moon Cast
Last August, the 12.14 Foundation premiered Michael Unger and Eric Svejcar‘s A ROCKIN’ Midsummer Night’s Dream at Newtown High School in Sandy Hook, Connecticut. This week, a majority of the dual casts have been reassembled to bring the new musical to New York City at 54 BELOW. With a ton of energy and some serious vocal talent, the kids involved with the 12.14 Foundation and the Broadway vetted adults bring fabulous new life to William Shakespeare‘s classic tale of love and fairy mischief.
Unger and Svejcar’s lyrics are telling of where the characters are in their individual arcs. This indeed helps audiences who didn’t see the Newtown performances, like myself, follow along, but most importantly, the lyrics are accessible and work on the poetic level as well. Often they abandon the elevated language of Shakespeare, but they consistently dabble in the art of metaphor to provide descriptions and emotions that are effective.
The score by Svejcar utilizes the aural landscapers of modern pop rock and throwbacks to the sounds of the 50s and 60s. We hear melodies inspired by the work of Elvis and Jerry Lee Lewis mixed with pieces that are reminiscent of tunes like Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” and the top 40 pop rock tunes that play on radios across the world. Each number is lively and melodious, ensuring that the audience feels the joviality and mirth of the production. As the rude mechanicals would explain, these songs are meant to entertain and induce cheer, so they do.
Last night’s audience was treated to the Moon Cast, with the Stars Cast set to perform on Thursday. Unger explained that the show was double cast to allow more children the opportunity to be a part of the presentation. He elaborated that the roles and these songs were built around the pairs of talented youngsters and set for them to perform. Thus, it is no surprise that each of the youthful actors and actresses sound great on their assigned roles.
Even with all the strong performances and the truly entertaining evening of musical theatre, the most impressive aspect of A ROCKIN’ Midsummer Night’s Dream is that the 12.14 Foundation, which is primarily strengthening students by fostering self-expression through the arts, has used this new musical as a vehicle to touch the souls and hearts of children. Each child in the cast possesses great talent and wondrous potential, and that has not been overlooked as each and every member of the cast’s individual strengths have been utilized to benefit the child and the production. That is what makes this evening of cabaret so magical.
Also, Broadway Records is recording both casts’ concerts at 54 BELOW. They’ll be releasing a dual-disc album, with one disc featuring each cast. For more information about this upcoming release or to pre-order your own copy, please visit http://www.broadwayrecords.com. (Broadway World)