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Manchester's Own Kenny Francoeur Makes Broadway Debut

From Buckley to Bennet to Bailey – and finally -- to Broadway.

Kenny Francoeur, who graduated from Manchester High School in 2009, two weeks ago became the first product of the Manchester Public School system to perform on Broadway, as he appeared in three performances of "The Book of Mormon" at the Eugene O'Neil Theater on West 49th Street.

"It was a complete shock," Kenny said in a phone interview Monday, recalling his reaction 

when he firstlearned he would be appearing on Broadway. “Some people say that their first show on Broadway is a blur, but for me, I remember everything perfectly and it was just so wonderful.”

Kenny (and that’s what he goes by, even having a website called  Kenny-Francoeur.com) is the son of Seanna Francoeur, an Illing Middle School social 

studies teacher who at convocation was recognized for having worked 25 years in the district.

"The Book of Mormon" has been described as a hilarious, blasphemous, rollicking, dance-filled musical
"It's surreal," said Seanna, who was teaching at Bennet when Ken was a student there.

but when Seanna watched it with her son on stage, she said, "I pretty much cried through the whole show."

Kenny's role was part of an ensemble of Mormon missionaries and he was on stage frequently, saying a few lines, and dancing and singing a great deal.

Kenny's Broadway dream started when he was young and by the time he reached Bennet he was immersed in theatre, landing parts in middle school productions of "Annie," "The Sound of Music" and "Carousel.” He was prolific on the Bailey Auditorium stage at MHS as well, earning the lead in "12 Angry Men," "Odd Couple," "How to Succeed," and "Singing in the Rain."

After MHS came the Big Apple.

Kenny attended New York University where he studied vocal performance and had leads in "Sweeney Todd," "Fiorello" and "City of Angels."

After finishing college, he continued to build his resume, with regional theater performances in "Spamalot," "White Christmas," "Little Mermaid," "Music Man" and "Damn Yankees" before joining the National Tour of "Anything Goes."

Kenny eventually signed a contract with "Mormon" and was expected to make his debut on Thursday, Aug. 13 as a "vacation swing" -- covering for a colleague. But two days prior, another actor called in sick and Ken was told just hours before show time that he would be performing that night.

Kenny called home and Seanna and her husband George raced to New Haven and caught a train to New York. They didn't see the show but were in the throng outside the theatre as cast members emerged from the stage door and stepped onto a sidewalk ringed by adoring theater goers.

Kenny was signing autographs when he realized his mother and father were in the crowd.

Dad had his camera out and you can see their emotional reunion in the accompanying video.

A large contingent of friends and family turned out on Thursday for Kenny's second performance. That was the show Seanna cried through.

Ed Tyler, a Manchester High teacher who was Kenny's director for four MHS spring musicals, was at the Thursday show and said he was incredibly impressed by his former student’s presence on stage.

“Your eyes are just drawn to him,” Tyler said.

Kenny's third Broadway performance was on Saturday, Aug. 15 -- which drew an even bigger contingent of his fans -- and shortly thereafter he flew, as had been planned, to Denver for the touring show.

He is now in Colorado as part of the national tour of "Mormon" -- a tour that will crisscross the country into next spring.

Kenny said he is thrilled to be touring but also excited to see what opportunities will come up now that he has on his resume the credential that most every actor seeks. He said that regional theaters might allow him to play some “bucket list” characters that have always seemed appealing – for example, Barnaby Tucker in “Hello Dolly” and Marcellus Washburn in “Music Man.”

He said he would love to perform on Broadway again someday but adds that he also knows he is blessed just to be making a living in theater.

“Art doesn’t just happen on that street in New York,” he said. “Broadway would be great again but I just try to stay realistic. I’m very grateful.”

Kenny said he is indebted to many teachers he had in Manchester, including Carol Wengertsman and Linda Del Negro (both now retired) for the way they helped him understand the concept of character development as they read literature in English class, and social studies teacher Dave Maloney “for the way he spoke to us like we were adults, and challenged us.” He also said Tyler and Amanda Lister – the duo behind the high school’s renowned theatrical program – were crucial to his development.

And he had special thanks for his eighth grade social studies teacher – his mom.

“She and my dad have not just been supportive of me, they have been wildly supportive,” Kenny said. “I will never be able to thank them enough.”

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