When the curtain rises this Thursday (April 7, 7 p.m.) on “Mary Poppins,” Ben Frimmer will be in a familiar role: director.
But, he says, the huge sets, challenging acting, singing and choreography make this one of the most adventurous shows he’s ever done.
He’s up to the task. In fact, he was recently nominated for an Excellence in Theater Education honor — sponsored by the Tony Awards and Carnegie Mellon University — by parents and former students. The winner will be announced this spring.
One letter in particular stands out. Ellen Knapp wrote of Frimmer’s support of her son, Cooper.
He never wanted to be on stage, she says. And he may never be there again.
But last spring Frimmer encouraged the 8th grader to audition for Lurch, in “The Addams Family.”
In fact, Knapp says, that encouragement was “perhaps the finest example of teaching I have ever experienced.” Frimmer acknowledged Cooper’s misgivings, then sold him on the “thrilling, awesome, intoxicating” thrill of being onstage.
Finally, Frimmer said the magic words: “I believe in you, Cooper.”
He got the part. He was embraced by his fellow actors. He even cut his hair.
In the finale, Lurch — who lived silently in the play’s shadows — steps to center stage, and belts out the epic song “Move Toward the Darkness.”
The audience went wild.
“Cooper literally found his voice as Lurch,” Ellen says. “And came to life as a man.”
That’s quite a story. This weekend at Coleytown, audiences will see Frimmer’s magic with another cast, in “Mary Poppins.”
Meanwhile, last weekend — a short way up North Avenue — the Bedford Acting Group brought “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” to life.
In a Wonka-like spirit, the cast and crew partnered with Saugatuck Sweets to sell chocolate bars. Each one contained a ticket for a grand raffle prize: a weekly ice cream sundae for a year.
Fifty percent of the proceeds from the promotion benefit the Leah Randon Memorial Scholarship. It’s named for the daughter of a popular Bedford teacher, killed in an accident last year.
Theater is alive and well in Westport’s middle schools. So is creativity, sharing and caring.