Pushcart Players announces the 45th Season of touring theater for young audiences, bringing performances to schools, theaters, production venues, and community centers throughout the United States. In Pushcart’s 5th decade of stirring up serious fun, the repertoire is an exceptional mix of musical productions exploring American history, self-discovery, classical music, teaching tolerance, and holiday celebrations.
Twice nominated for an Emmy©, Pushcart Players is the recipient of numerous state and private awards for excellence and innovation. Traveling more than 2 million miles nationally and abroad — from the little red schoolhouse to White House — the upcoming season (through July 2019) includes nine exceptional musical productions.
New to Pushcart’s repertoire is “Lift Every Voice – America’s Civil Rights Movement.” This multi-media play with music explores that pivotal time in the United States development as experienced by young people. Personal stories of the ordinary citizens in extraordinary circumstances reinforce the hope and promise of equality that resonates with today’s young audiences.
“The Velveteen Rabbit” tells the story of how a young boy’s love and a little nursery magic help transform the Velveteen Rabbit from a favorite plaything into a real rabbit. Boy and Velveteen embark on exciting imaginary adventures, from deep dark caves to the wide open sea, and together they learn the true meaning of friendship in this musical re-telling of one of America’s favorite storybooks.
“Ellis Island: Gateway to America” takes a loving look at a small group of immigrants. They came to America in the early 1900’s, seeking freedom, opportunity and a better life for themselves, their children, and their children’s children. A combination of original and traditional American music, the play explores the ordinary people and extraordinary events in the nation’s history through the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960’s.
“Stone Soup and Other Stories” features short literary favorites from Africa, India, Eastern Europe, and the United States of America. Filled with exuberant music, fantasy, and comic plot lines, each tale introduces the spirit and customs of these unique cultures; the production provides a springboard for reading and subsequent literacy-related activities.
In “Peter and the Wolf,” Pushcart puts its’ trademark spin on a beloved Eastern European folk tale. Classical music, story-telling, puppetry, and the ageless adventure of growing up comprise this masterpiece. Set to the resplendent music by composer Sergei Prokofiev, each character is represented by a different musical motif in this story of a spirited young boy who confronts the dangers of the forest with courage, creativity, and leadership.
“The Last…Butterfly” is a touching, informative, and provocative multi-media play with music, based on the poems, drawings, and experiences of children of the Holocaust. While dealing with a particular episode in history, the production brings relevance to current human rights issues.
In late November and December, Pushcart presents the perennial favorite, “A Season of Miracles: A Collection of Holiday Tales.” This charming musical presents four heart-warming tales that celebrate Christmas, Chanukah, and Kwanzaa.
“A Cinderella Tale…happily ever after” is Pushcart’s whimsical comic version of the well-known fairy tale. The story’s origins are informed by the universal longing to overcome adversity. Certainly it speaks to everyone who has a vision or a dream yet to be fulfilled, with central themes of goodness, generosity, and compassion.
“Story Telling with Gerald Fierst” offers tales from around the world for very young audiences in an interactive, story-telling format. Fierst is a renowned story-teller who has travelled internationally with his delightful brand of narration. He is also the author of “Imagine the Moon,” a children’s illustrated book on the science and folk-lore of the Earth’s satellite published last year.
“Pushcart hasn’t been around this long by chance,” said producing artistic director, Paul Whelihan. “The company’s endurance is a testimony to both the subject matter of our productions, and to our inclusive approach with audiences. In substance and style, Pushcart embraces history, literature, the Autism spectrum, special educational needs, and values clarification for young people, their families, and their educators. That being said, the repertoire quite simply offers entertainment that is funny, thought-provoking, intelligent and enormously engaging.”
The season is directed by Whelihan, who directs, stage-manages and performs off-Broadway (47th Street Theater, 59 East 59 Theatres, NY Fringe Festival, 54 Below) and regionally (Royal Poincianna Playhouse, Broward Center for the Arts, Centenary Stage, The Bickford Theatre, The Growing Stage, Luna Stage Company, Forum Theatre Cultural Arts Center, Quillo Arts Center, Premier Stages, Dreamcatcher Rep) in musicals, dramas, original works and locally produced television, film and web series projects. Whelihan also wrote the books for “Lift Every Voice” and “The Velveteen Rabbit.”
Orchestrations for the digitally recorded soundtracks to each production are created by award-winning composer, Larry Hochman, who also provides original music for many of the titles as well. Hochman is the Tony Award-winner for orchestrations for “She Loves Me” (2016 revival) and Tony and Drama Desk award-winner for “The Book of Mormon.” He received Tony nominations for this season’s “Hello Dolly” with Bette Midler, “The Scottsboro Boys,” ”Monty Python’s Spamalot,” (Hochman also received Drama Desk nominations for both), “Fiddler on the Roof” (2004 revival) and “A Class Act.” Larry composed additional music for Disney’s “Little Mermaid,’ for Stephen Spielberg’s “Amazing Stories” and for numerous celebrity concerts. Hochman’s other awards include the ASCAP Award for Musical Theater (“One Man Band”), 4 Emmy Awards for “The Wonder Pets” television series and a Bistro Award for composing “One Man Band.”
All Pushcart Players performances by professional artists (Actors’ Equity Association) are supported by study guides, post-performance assessments and other supplemental materials, and adapt to any location with innovative scenery, lighting and sound systems. Pushcart has a substantive theater education program, providing in-school workshops, direction of student productions and curriculum development for elementary and middle schools. Among Pushcart cast members are experienced teaching artists, who provide workshops, acting classes and residency programs to schools, community centers and summer session programs.
As a social-profit organization, Pushcart Players’ programs are made possible in part by The Healthcare Foundation of New Jersey, NJ State Council on the Arts/Department of State, The Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation, Pine Tree Foundation of New York, Actors’ Equity Foundation, ADP Foundation, The Community Foundation of NJ, EJ Grassmann Trust, Hyde & Watson Foundation, The Montclair Foundation, PNC Bank/Lillian Schenck Foundation, The Turrell Fund, The Puffin Foundation, The Whitehill Foundation and numerous individual contributors.
All productions are available for touring. Potential school and theater sponsors are encouraged to book their programs with Pushcart early, as available dates rapidly fill up. For further information, including public performance listings, visit the website www.pushcartplayers.org, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call the Verona, NJ office at 973.857.1115.