Broadway was not the only theatrical casualty of COVID.
Student stages were also darkened by the pandemic. For Coleytown Middle School — which was simultaneously shuttered by mold — 2 entire grades lost opportunities to learn how to audition for, rehearse, light, costume and stage a show.
Not to mention all the lost revenue, which pays for the next Coleytown Company production.
Music Theater International wants to help schools like CMS get back on their feet.
The licensing agency — which usually charges hefty right fees — created a 15-number musical revue they’re offering free. (They hope, of course, that directors who like the songs may do an MTI show in the future.)
Coleytown Company director Ben Frimmer loved the idea. But — in typical directorial fashion — he wondered: How can we make it different from all the other schools that are doing it too?
MTI is licensing “All Together Now!” for one weekend only. Several area groups are also producing it then — along with 5,500 schools and theaters, in all 50 states and over 40 countries.
Frimmer realized it would be difficult to get middle schoolers to learn 15 songs in just 2 months. He also realized he has plenty of Broadway friends who could help.
His first call was to Coleytown Company choreographer Amiee Turner. A veteran of Broadway’s “Will Rogers Follies” and “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum,” she said she’d love to perform.
Broadway veterans Mia Gentile and Jacob Heimer — both CMS alums — were happy to come back too.
Company producer Stacie Lewis — the mother of a CMS grad, and a current student — said she’d sing. She reached out to others.
Quickly, Frimmer had a cast: 10 Broadway performers. Six songs featuring Coleytown 7th and 8th graders. And speaking roles for First Selectman Jim Marpe and Superintendent of Schools Thomas Scarice.
“All Together Now!” is set for Saturday, November 13 (7 p.m.). There’s a livestream option, for anyone unable to be at CMS’ new auditorium in person. (All audience members eligible must be vaccinated.)
As with any show, there are challenges. COVID is one. “If someone has a sniffle, they can’t come to rehearsal,” Frimmer notes. “At any moment, we might have to switch out a performer.”
And because Coleytown had not hosted a performance in 3 years, there was no wood to build sets, or tools to build them with. Lights and props had been removed during the school’s renovation.
On top of which, the current 7th and 8th graders had no Company experience . Frimmer started fresh with everyone, teaching everything from how to audition to how to perform. (Plus: The date MTI chose is earlier than usual for a CMS show.)
But, he says, “they’re all really excited. They’re working together to create live theater. Amiee, Eli Newsom (our musical director) and I are challenging them with high expectations. They’re rising up to meet them.”
Click here for tickets. Revenue helps pay for sound, lights and other Coleytown Company costs — including this spring’s show, “SpongeBob Musical.”
Oh, yeah. They have to pay for licensing rights then too.