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With: Jimmy Greene, Nelba Márquez-Greene, Michael Unger, Becky Virgalla, Tain Gregory, Sammy Vertucci
Written by: n/a
Directed by: Lloyd Kramer
MPAA Rating: NR
Running Time: 81
Date: 01/27/2017
IMDB

Midsummer in Newtown (2017)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Puckish

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Though it's not exactly high-quality journalism or thought-provoking commentary, this deeply moving documentary takes a tender, humble approach to a community's suffering and its attempts at healing.

In Midsummer in Newtown, the community of Newtown, Connecticut is still recovering from the brutal December 14, 2012 murders at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Director Michael Unger and NewArts decide to put on a musical version of Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream, with some of the kids from the school in their cast.

Young performers like Tain Gregory and Sammy Vertucci seem to find their true selves on stage, working out problems and accomplishing goals like never before. Meanwhile, jazz musician Jimmy Greene and his wife Nelba Márquez-Greene remember their lost daughter Ana, and other parents tell harrowing stories of that horrible day.

Midsummer in Newtown doesn't try to shock with gory details or bloody reconstructions of the shooting, and whenever it's discussed, it's done so discreetly. One parent mentions the name of the shooter, but she does so while wondering about his suffering, and hoping to prevent the suffering of future children.

Director Lloyd Kramer has good luck with the plucky young performers he chooses to highlight; they almost literally blossom while on stage (and on camera), and when the show is over, their sadness is palpable. The movie does a fine job of balancing the joy of the stage production with the aftermath of the tragedy, respectfully visiting both and giving both equal weight. Although the doc seriously overdoes the treacly piano music, this is a winning, heartwarming, hopeful achievement.

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