MOUNT DESERT — Move over, “Frozen” and “Hamilton.” Over the next few weeks, Mount Desert Island families will have new set of super catchy show tunes stuck in their heads.
“Super Happy Awesome News,” by Denver Casado and Jessica Penzias, written this year specifically for children’s and community theater groups that have been forced by the pandemic to move all activities online, is set to be performed in October in a partnership between Camp Beech Cliff and Acadia Community Theater.
Camp Director Matt Cornish will direct the musical, with Jen Moros as music director. Moros will be familiar to Beech Cliff campers; she worked last summer as the camp photographer and videographer.
Performers from fourth grade through high school are encouraged to register. Zoom rehearsals begin the week of Sept. 14 and will meet three times per week, with homework for cast members between rehearsals to make recordings and submit them for feedback. The rights package includes vocal and accompaniment tracks that cast members will have access to for rehearsal and recording.
Like the high school choirs this year, the ensemble songs will consist of each cast member’s audio and video contribution edited together to make a virtual choir. For rehearsals, Cornish said, performing groups have figured out some workarounds to be able to practice music on Zoom meetings. Usually one person will lead or teach and everyone else mutes themselves and sings along from where they are.
The groups have also acquired the rights to a second musical, “The Show Must Go Online” by Denver Casado, David Hudson and Jessica Penzias, if there’s enough interest in the program to form casts for both shows. “Depending upon numbers, we will either have two separate casts working different rehearsal periods, or one group working on two shows simultaneously,” Cornish said. “Each show has 20 roles, so we have space for up to 40 young people to be part of this program. But it also works if we don’t get 40.”
There’s no separate audition process planned; after a read-through, the first rehearsals will include a chance for each cast member do a short music audition. “We’re asking everyone to prepare something to sing for us on Zoom,” he said, “no more than a minute. Jen and I will go back and assign roles. Every single kid will shine in this, every single kid will have a solo moment on screen.”
“Super Happy Awesome News” is about siblings Joey and Parker (all the characters are gender neutral) who each start up their own online news network.
Joey starts a news site, and younger sibling Parker “is very upset that Joey will not let him be a co-anchor,” Cornish said.
At first, the siblings are in a battle for who can find the happiest, most uplifting news. The idea is to cheer up their stressed-out parents.
But Parker begins to ask people, “How are you doing during all of this?” and learns that people are touched to be asked honestly about how they’re feeling.
“It becomes this really beautiful look at how we need the positivity but also have to be honest about what our feelings are and how we work through those,” Cornish said. It becomes about the kids coming together to support each other.
“This’ll be something that, no matter how bonkers everything else is, will bring some joy into people’s lives.”
See a video promotion and register at campbeechcliff.org/musicals. Machias Savings Bank is a sponsor of this project.