Broadway shows are spectacular to behold, and many shows get their start off-Broadway. Children often adore live theater and so a new show called “Addy & Uno” is an ideal way to introduce youngsters to the magic of the theater. The show is playing at the Kirk Theatre (located on Manhattan’s 42nd Street) debuted in November of 2017 and featured actors who portray puppets who are living with disabilities.

Hillary Clinton’s former Grassroots Campaign Manager Tom D’Angora is the producer of the show, which was granted a letter of recognition from Mayor de Blasio in honor of Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month.

The show is scheduled to be performed through March of 2018, and it celebrates friendship, acceptance, and kindness.

The show is notable for the main character of Uno who is a genius at math…and who also has autism. His friend, Addy, has Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (AHDH) and their friends Melody and Seemore have visual and auditory problems. Another friend, RJ, is confined to a wheelchair.

Tom D’Angora recently granted an exclusive interview where he discussed his involvement with “Addy and Uno” and more.

Theater, politics, and puppet plays

Meagan Meehan (MM): How did you come to work in politics, especially so closely with the Clintons?

Tom D’Angora (TD): I have been a huge supporter of the Clintons for most of my life, but it was Hillary's unprecedented work in the Senate that inspired me to get involved in politics.

I found myself awestruck by her work ethic and values. The heroic way she stood up for NY after 9/11 and the first responders was a highlight of her incredible eight years in the Senate. So, when she decided to run for President the first time I vowed to do anything I could to get her elected, and I worked my butt off on that campaign.

Though she did win the popular vote in the 2008 Primary, the Presidency wasn't meant to be. When her second campaign came around, and the opportunity arose to be heavily involved in the Grassroots department and later the LGBT Outreach department I jumped at the opportunity and spent eighteen of the most grueling, exhausting, and inspiring months of my life on the campaign trail.

I wouldn't trade that time for anything in the world.

MM: When did you discover your passion for the arts and how did you come to work in the theater?

TD: I was obsessed with “All My Children” and other soap operas when I was really young. I was actually sent home from school in the second grade for pretending to be Dorian Lord from “One Life To Live.” Then, as most dramatic young men do, I channeled that drama into high school theater, and I fell in love with performing. I moved to NYC in 2000 to be a performer. After a few years doing regional theater and tours, I wrote, produced, and starred in a one-man show that my then boyfriend (now husband) Michael directed and co-produced. The show "Divas I've Done" became a smash hit and ran for two years!

When it wrapped up, I realized I enjoyed the producing end of it more than performing. So, I decided to focus on that, and I'm so happy I did.

MM: How did you get involved with the puppet play “Addy & Uno”?

TD: My good friend Paul Gordon, who is a brilliant Broadway composer and has incredible taste, recommended that I check out this puppet musical about disabilities. It was playing a three-week showcase run at the 14th Street Y downtown. I was instantly interested in the show because the human needs of disabled Americans have always been very important to me. So, I went to check out the show, and I was so taken with it. There is a moment in the show when the character RJ, who is in a wheelchair, sings the most beautiful and inspirational song called "Watch Me Fly" and I remember looking around at the audience and every child was mesmerized, and every adult was in tears (myself included).

The powerful music and lyrics combined with the Broadway-caliber vocals of the young actor playing RJ (Brent Jones) were magical. I kept thinking about one of my best friends, Anastasia Somoza. Anastasia and I met on the Hillary campaign. You might remember her for giving an incredibly moving and powerful speech on the first night of the Democratic National Convention. Anastasia has Cerebral Palsy. We became close friends on the campaign, and as I watched the show, I thought about her as a little girl, and I wished there was a show like this for her to connect with. The second it was over my husband Michael, and I told the author Dr. Nava Silton and the Composer and lyricist Bonnie Gleicher that I had to produce it Off-Broadway.

Characters, plot, and story

MM: What attracted you to the characters and plot and did you enjoy working on a show for kids involving puppets?

TD: What I love about “Addy & Uno” is that the show focuses on who the characters are, not on the disabilities they have. Uno loves math, and he also has autism, RJ loves rockets, and he happens to be in a wheel cheer. Seemore loves jokes, and he also hears impaired, Melody loves to sing, and she happens to be visually impaired. It is a show about friendship, kindness, and inclusion. The characters' disabilities don't define them. My dream is for every child in New York (and America) to see it, because no matter who you are, the universal message of the show will resonate with you.

It may sound cliche, but the show is truly changing lives.

Every week I get to see so many kids relate to the theater for the first time in their lives, and it's because they see themselves represented on stage for the first time. It means the world to me to be able to do it. I must also say the cast is unbelievably talented and they care so deeply about the cause. I have enjoyed every second of it, and I hope we get to it for a long time.

MM: What do you hope audiences get out of the story in the "Addy & Uno" show?

TD: There is a lyric in the opening number that I hope everyone takes with them when they leave and keeps with them forever: "Different is also special, there's weakness, and there's strength and kindness makes a difference." It's that simple.

If everyone in America could understand that every single one of us deserves to be included in society and that kindness truly does make a difference, I believe a lot of the troubles we are facing today would be gone.

MM: In what ways do you think the arts benefit individuals and communities?

TD: There are a million different ways, but at this moment in history, I think escapism is very important. Now, more than ever, we need positive ways to escape from the insane happenings in DC and all over the country. Whether it be performing or simply losing yourself in your favorite song, we all need a healthy way to blow off steam and express what we are feeling.

MM: Are you involved in any other artistic endeavors at the moment?

TD: Yes, I have three long-running musicals running at Theatre Row on 42nd Street: “NEWSical The Musical,” “Naked Boys Singing!,” and “The Marvelous Wonderettes.” I am currently working on bringing a brilliant Tony-winning musical to the big screen, and I'm working on a wonderful musical version of Jane Austin's “Emma” that will be presented in a way that has yet to be done.

MM: How do you hope to see the arts grow shortly and how do you plan on nurturing the process in NYC?

TD: I would like to see theater, TV, film, and music continue to become more diverse and inclusive. I want to see more color-blind casting. I'd love to see more transgender actors and actresses working, and I'd love to see people with all body types cast in every kind of role.

I want all children from all walks of life to be able to see a show or movie and see themselves represented on the stage or screen. I will continue to do everything in my power to make that happen. I have a lot keeping me busy right now. I'm working on several new projects, but I want to make sure I'm fully available to help Democrats win back the house and Senate this November. That is my number one priority.