In the second summer after the 2012 mass shooting at Newtown, Connecticut’s Sandy Hook Elementary, residents put on a show starring local children and teens.
In the slightly uneven yet deeply affecting documentary Midsummer in Newtown, filmmaker Lloyd Kramer tracks the joy-filled auditions, rehearsals and opening night of A ROCKIN’ Midsummer Night’s Dream, a Shakespeare-inspired musical staged by Broadway pros lending their time and talent.
The very mention of the Newtown tragedy, in which 20 first-graders and six teachers and administrators were gunned down, is overwhelming, but the sight of children discovering themselves through the magic of live theater can only bring smiles. Kramer quickly focuses on 11-year-old Sammie and 9-year-old Tain, who both have painful memories of “that day” and the friends they lost. These two are soulful, funny and articulate, but the film would benefit from other voices — particularly those of the older kids in the production.
Sandy Hook’s heroic music teacher, Maryrose Kristopik, fills in the backstory of that terrible day, and there’s wrenching testimony from the parents of 6-year-old Ana Márquez-Greene, who died in the attack. In the end, Midsummer in Newtown feels oddly underwritten, with Kramer neglecting to mention that the jazz album Jimmy Greene wrote as tribute to his daughter received two Grammy nominations, or that a summer musical at Newtown High is the town’s newest tradition — odd omissions in an otherwise moving, important film.
Midsummer in Newtown
Directed by Lloyd Kramer
Opens January 27, Village East Cinema