American Theater Dance Workshop’s married artistic directors and producers, Michelle and Jerome Vivona, are both connected to the original Broadway production of “Seussical.” Michelle was in the pre-Broadway Toronto workshop and Jerome starred in the original Broadway company. They each bring their own point of view to a production of the musical that will take place at the ATDW Studio Theater at 500 Jericho Turnpike in Mineola from Friday, May 10 to Sunday, May 19.
Now one of the most performed shows in America, “Seussical” is a fantastical and magical extravaganza. Tony winners Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty, who have collaborated on many musicals, including “Lucky Stiff,” “My Favorite Year,” “Once on this Island,” and “Ragtime,” have lovingly brought to life favorite Dr. Seuss characters, including Horton the Elephant, the Cat in the Hat, Gertrude McFuzz, lazy Mayzie and Jojo, a little girl with a big imagination. These colorful characters transport audiences from the Jungle of Nool to the Circus McGurkus to the invisible world of the Whos.
“The Cat in the Hat” tells the story of Horton, an elephant who discovers a speck of dust that contains the Whos, including Jojo, a Who child sent off to military school for thinking too many “thinks.” Horton faces a double challenge: not only must he protect the Whos from a world of naysayers and dangers, but he must guard an abandoned egg, left in his care by the irresponsible Mayzie La Bird. Although Horton faces ridicule, danger, kidnapping and a trial, the intrepid Gertrude McFuzz never loses faith in him. Ultimately, the powers of
friendship, loyalty, family and community are challenged and emerge triumphant.
Jerome began his training on Long Island as a ballet dancer, eventually landing in Ali Pourfarrokh’s class in Port Washington. Shortly afterwards, he was accepted on scholarship to the Joffrey Ballet School in New York City and made his debut with the Joffrey Ballet Concert Group. During that time, Jerome was highly sought after for his portrayal of the Blue Bird in the pas de deux from “Sleeping Beauty.” He was then cast as the Nutcracker Prince in the New Jersey Ballet’s holiday production under the direction of Carolyn Clark and Edward Villella.
As a soloist with the NJB, Jerome had the privilege of working with Agnes DeMille on “Rodeo,” was cast as the lead in Robert North’s “Let’s Go South,” and danced in Antony Tudor’s “Jardin aux Lilas.” He would then travel to Edmonton, Canada to join the Alberta Ballet under the direction of Pourfarrokh. While there, he was featured in both new works and classic ballets such as “Games,” “Tango,” “Coppelia” and “The Nutcracker.” He moved next to California to dance with the Oakland Ballet under the direction of Ronn Guidi. Jerome was featured in many new and contemporary ballets including the world premieres of “Gypsies” and the reproduction of the Nijinsky ballet, “Le Train Bleu,” featured in Dance Magazine. He returned to the NJB and began auditioning for musical theater. His first role was that of Paul in “A Chorus Line” at the Bucks County Playhouse, which led to him being cast in the national tour of “Jerome Robbins’ Broadway,” where the legendary Robbins rehearsed him.
Michelle began studying dance at the age of 4 at her parents’ studio in Pittsburgh, Pa. Her parents are both veterans of Broadway, television and film, having worked with Robbins, Bob Fosse, Jack Cole, Michael Kidd and many other luminaries of the time, as well as appearing on the “Perry Como Show.” Michelle followed her dreams to NYC and shortly thereafter landed her first role as the tap leader in the national tour of “On Your Toes,” starring Leslie Caron and Natalia Makarova. She was then cast as Lorraine in “42nd Street,” which led to her Broadway debut in “Sweet Charity,” directed by Fosse and Gwen Verdon, followed by roles in “Anything Goes” and “Gypsy.”
Michelle and Jerome met as they were partnered together in the Paris Company of “West Side Story.” Returning home, they toured the U.S. and Japan in “Guys and Dolls.” Soon after, they were married and moved to Long Island. Michelle joined the line at Radio City Musical Hall as a Rockette and Jerome opened on Broadway in “How to Succeed in Business without Really Trying,” starring Matthew Broderick, Megan Mullally, Sarah Jessica Parker and John Stamos. As dance captains, they took the show on the road with Ralph Macchio. Jerome assisted Wayne Cilento on his next Broadway project “Dream,” a Johnny Mercer musical starring Leslie Ann Warren.
Jerome went on to feature in the original Broadway casts of “Seussical, the Musical,” directed by Oscar winner Rob Marshall, and then “Kiss Me, Kate.” Michelle was then cast in “Thoroughly Modern Millie.” Jerome went on to be featured in the Kander and Ebb musical “Curtains,” starring the Emmy and Tony Award winner, David Hyde Pierce.
During that time, Jerome went on to become an award-winning director and choreographer, staging such shows as “How to Succeed…,” “West Side Story,” “Guys and Dolls,” “Sweet Charity,” “Footloose” and “The Producers.”
The Vivonas’ production of “Seussical” promises fun for the whole family and can be seen at 8 p.m. on Friday, May 10 and 17 and at 7 p.m. on Saturday, May 11 and 19 and Sunday, May 12 and 19. Tickets, $18 for general seating and $22 premium seating, are available by going to www.atdwstudiotheaterseussical.bpt.me.
For more information, contact the American Theater Dance Workshop at 516-248-6420 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.