Gertrude McFuzz

Emily Zacharias 2013More than 260 children and their families attended performances of Gertrude McFuzz by Dr. Seuss with score by Robert Kapilow and Stand Tall Molly Lou Melon written by Patty Lovell.  The performances actively engaged the audience in learning the basics of opera and entertained them with song, dance and stories of self-worth and inclusiveness artfully told by mezzo soprano Lori Brown Mirabal and Broadway actress Emily Zacharias, both of whom are SOMA residents.  This Integration through the Arts event also offered an opportunity for kids and families from Maplewood and South Orange to share a positive experience with neighbors that they might not otherwise meet and with families from Morristown, Montclair and other neighboring communities.

We are so fortunate to have had so many people volunteer their talents and many hours to this project.  The musicians Lori Mirabalplayed the Robert Kapilow score for Dr. Suess’ Gertrude McFuzz.  Professional opera singer Lori Mirabal sang the lead role and was joined by two budding young singers.  Emily Zacharias performed and narrated the delightful story Stand Tall Molly Lou Melon along with some talented young dancers.  The performances were outstanding.

A nine piece chamber orchestra conducted by Maplewood Community Band Director, Tom McGee, and the African-originated shekere, played by world music musician, Ahmondylla Best, created a backdrop for young actresses, Emma Ares and Jenna Ravenda, who performed the role of Gertrude McFuzz in the 10 AM and 11:30 AM show, respectively.  Maggie Buckley was charming as Molly Lou Melon.

Columbia High School Special Dance Company members Chiamaka Obidigbo, Tiara Knox and Kylah Williams performed the movements of Director/Choreographer Ruthanna Graves McQueen flawlessly in costumes that she also designed.  The children—and the adults, too—were captivated by the stories, the singing, the instruments, and the dancing.  The entire show was directed and choreographed by Ruthanna Graves McQueen and produced by Doreen Oliver along with Opera Soup Productions.Gertrude Jenna Ravenda and Lori Mirabal

This is the first year that the Coalition on Race’s children’s production was performed in the SOPAC Theater with full lighting, sound and technical crew—making this a truly professional production.  This show would not have been possible without support from SOPAC, HK Foundation and the Fraentzel Foundation.  The Integration through the Arts program is made possible in part by funds from the New Jersey State Council on the Arts/Department of State, a Partner Agency of the National Endowment for the Arts, and administered by the Essex County Division of Cultural and Historic Affairs.

Molly Lou & castAfter the shows, Coalition staff, trustees, and volunteers chatted with audience members as they left SOPAC.  We were pleased to hear how much people liked the program and how taken they were with the whole concept of intentional integration and with using the arts to bridge racial barriers.  We look forward to providing more programming like this in the future!


Gertrude McFuzz Emma AresMolly Lou actressGertrude dancer 1Gertude dancer 2Emily Zacharias with Madison Hobbs, Maggie Buckley, Kylah Williams,Tiara Knox and Chiamaka ObidigboGertrude dancer 3

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