The pandemic was tough. At times, it was hard to believe the sun would come up tomorrow.
But it did. We persevered. And now we’re reaping the rewards.
Among them: a production of “Annie Jr.” by Greens Farms Elementary School 5th graders.
The show — on June 4-6, outdoors near Bedford Square — is a collaboration with TheaterCamp4KidsBroadwayAcademy.com. But it would not have been possible without help from throughout the community.
Many were available only because of COVID.
“We have the most wonderful young actors, parents, and theater and dance professionals,” says Laura Curley Pendergast, TheaterCamp owner and artistic director.
Volunteers include a Rockette, a former choreographer for “Disney on Ice,” professional actors and set designers, and others.
In true the-show-must-go-on style, TheaterCamp faced — and overcame — many challenges. Among them: Though they earned nearly $10,000 in ticket sales after the March 2020 production of “Beauty and the Beast” at GFS, the ticket company never paid them.
“After many attempts we finally gave up. The cost of an attorney was just too expensive,” Pendergast says.
“We thought we could not do a play this year for our very talented 5th graders, who had been waiting in the ensemble for 2 years for their turn to star.”
But many Westporters stepped up. Among them: David Waldman, who provided space to rehearse and perform at Bedford Square.
Tecknow’s Phil Levieff lent musical equipment for rehearsals — along with technical know-how.
Professional film and stage actor Emily Hooper serves as musical director. David Hoffman, a Dartmouth student and accomplished actor, is assistant director and stage manager. Staples High and middle school students are interning with the show.
Professional actor Jim Lauten — also a talented painter and builder — donated all of the rolling sets.
Costumes were provided by designer Pam Beaudoin, who lives at Bedford Square.
Parents Jenny Perlman and Laurie Ginsberg handle ticket sales — not an outside company. (Pendergast learned her lesson.)
She is grateful for the help of other locals with impressive resumes. Kristine Nielsen (a GFS parent) is a professional dancer who choreographed “Disney on Ice” for years.
Former Rockette and Knicks dancer Kelly Potter McHale is another “Annie Jr.” choreographers. So is Kim Porio.
Costumes have been handled by a hard-working trio: Marisa Zer, Taran Gulliksen and Shobana Mani-Lorenzato.
One of the first rehearsals was at the GFS basketball court in cold and rain. After seeking shelter on the school’s front porch, the young actors found a way to make it a fun day. It remains a favorite memory.
The sun eventually came out. And so — next week — will the young actors and dancers in “Annie Jr.”
(“Annie Jr. is performed Friday, June 4 at 6:30 p.m.; Saturday, June 5 at 2 and 4:30 p.m., and Sunday, June 6 at 2 p.m., outdoors near Bedford Square. Tickets are $18 each. They can be purchased by Venmo (@laura-pendergast-2), PayPal (email@example.com) or check (payable to “TheaterCamp4Kids,” c/o Laurie Ginsberg, 209 Greens Farms Road, Westport, CT 06880). Questions? Email firstname.lastname@example.org. To help via GoFundMe, click here.)
Meanwhile, the fledgling Saugatuck Elementary Theater Club also struggled with how to continue this year.
They too decided the show must go on. They chose “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown”, with a twist. They’d record parts individually, and create a movie in lieu of a live show.
With a small cast and cartoon quality, it lent itself to green screens and graphics, rather than props and elaborate costumes. That was a great fit for the pandemic.
Luckily, local Broadway star Jaden Waldman — who just happens to be a Saugatuck 5th grade — had some COVID-induced time on his hands. He’s a perfect Charlie Brown.
Other roles were double cast, to provide more opportunities for the young actors. The 2 casts were called “Saugie” and “Tuck.”
Rehearsals were held on Zoom. Leads recorded practice songs each week, then uploaded them to receive feedback.
Blocking was recorded by director Katie Bloom, and shared via instructional videos.
Each child sang alone. Vocal tracks were then layered together. Zoom recordings were deconstructed and reconstructed. Microphones and green screens were juggled between cast members’ houses. When possible, they came together for a socially distanced scene or two.
The project required dedication and responsibility seldom demanded of 10- year-olds.
It all culminates Wednesday (June 2) in a big way: the big screen at the Remarkable Theatre. Congratulations to all the good men — and women, and children — who helped make “Charlie Brown” a reality.
(The Remarkable Theater opens at 6:30 p.m. The show starts at sunset, and costs $40 per car. A pizza truck will be on the premises. For tickets — or to stream the show on June 4, 7 p.m. —click here.)
(Hat tips: Jenny Perlman Robinson and Pamela Long)