BELLOWS FALLS, Vt. – David Stern has been known as the artistic director and the face of Main Street Arts in Saxtons River and for bringing big stage Broadway musicals such as “Chicago,” “Jesus Christ Superstar,” and “Sweeney Todd” to the Bellows Falls Opera House. He was bringing “Cabaret” there March of last year, but it was postponed two days before opening because of the Covid-19 pandemic. Main Street Arts ultimately “went dormant,” laying off its three employees including Stern.
Since then Stern has been freelancing and working quite a bit at home. He is versatile having skills as a designer, teacher, artist, and director. His resume includes teaching at Springfield High School, Kimball Union School, Swathmore College, and a year in Morocco. He has designed at Weston Playhouse and other New England theaters. He says, “This winter I did about 30 paintings.” Also working at home on Zoom he organized a new theater company, the Wild Goose Players, under the umbrella of Next Stage Arts in Putney. First rehearsing on Zoom, he is now bringing a production of the musical “A Year With Frog and Toad” to be performed outdoors at the Waypoint Center in Bellows Falls. It is an adaptation of the Frog and Toad children’s books by Arnold Lobel.
Home for Stern is a farm on Bald Hill Road in Westminster. He and with his wife Vanessa, an elementary school teacher in Springfield, bought it from the actor Louis Guzman who lived there in his Vermont days. It abuts the Bald Hill Nature Preserve that stretches to the high school and Basin Farm. Stern says, “We have been here at ‘Hog Heaven’ for 20 years. Over the years we have raised pigs, goats, sheep, chickens, ducks, rabbits, and two veal calves.” There is a pond that has frogs and toads.
The original idea was that the musical would be presented its first weekend outdoors in Putney then have an invited gala fundraiser July 2 at Stern’s farm. There is an amphitheater in the woods used for family events and expanded in 2016 for Stern’s son Josh’s wedding. The show is to be staged there with a reception by the pond. Then the rest of the public performances would be done there as well.
Deborah Collier, director of The Great Falls Regional Chamber of Commerce, suggested Stern stage the show at the Waypoint Center where the Chamber’s office is. He agreed and now all the public performances, both weekends, will be at the Waypoint Center. Collier says, “It brings vibrancy back to the community… I think it’s wonderful to make use of this beautiful facility.”
The promo for the Tony Award nominated musical notes its, “upbeat, jazzy, vaudeville score” by Robert Reale.
Stern says, “The music is fantastic, great family fun.”
The story line, of the five actors playing various forest creatures, follows the turn of seasons in the lives of Frog and his friend Toad. Children who attend will each receive a Frog and Toad book courtesy of one of the sponsors, Oak Meadow School. It opens June 25 at 6:30 p.m. and runs the next two days at 4 p.m. and 6:30 p.m., and again July 3 and 4 at 4 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. There are rain dates. For information, call Next Stage Arts at 802-451-0053 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.