Seussical the Musical

Seussical+the+Musical

Harry Paul

Dan Bidikov, Aaron Brezel, and Penina Remler, Dan Bidikov, Aaron Brezel, and Penina Remler

On March 14 through 17, Schreiber hosted a show,

Seussical the Musical, which many kids know.

In only two acts, the play blew crowds away,

packed houses each night, we critics have great things to say.

Singing, dancing, clever costumes and more,

only five dollars a ticket, one should’ve seen what was in store. 

Lights dim in the Schreiber auditorium as the pit orchestra’s tuning note rings through the audience.  The crowd focuses on a lone red and white striped hat that occupies the stage.  Enter a scrawny, awkward-looking boy with messy hair who picks up the hat and admires it with wonder.  It was a slow start to what was advertised as everything and anything Seuss.

All of a sudden the unmistakable Cat in the Hat (senior Liam Marsigliano) bounds onto the stage and introduces himself with the beloved character’s quintessential candid attitude.  The boy stammers to identify himself as JoJo (junior Amelia Pacht) from the classic Horton Hears a Who!   The Cat promises to take Jojo on a fantastical journey where he will learn lessons taught in the simple ways of Seuss.

The slower pace of the opening scene quickly burst into the play’s first musical number, “Oh The Thinks You Can Think.”

“The opening number was so much fun, because it’s so full of energy.  It also includes the entire cast which made rehearsals extra fun,”  said junior Sabrina Brennan, who played a jungle creature.

The number was not only engaging to the audience but was also the debut of the advanced lighting and set designs used for the production.  The rich lighting behind the set intensified the mood of each scene.  The production used “psych lighting,” strategically lighting the audience with bursts of color from the back.

“There are two times where the sound and lights really have a big effect,” said junior Matt Brandes, who operated the sound board.  “The first is when Gertrude McFuzz has a tantrum after the doctor won’t give her tail enlargement pills.  The stage goes red and the music picks up.  It really gives you the feeling of anger.”

Despite the obvious presence of principal roles like the Cat in the Hat, the production is not entirely carried by the star singers or actors.  The supporting cast contributes as much to its entertainment value and each ensemble member’s performance shows as much effort as that of the principal actors.

The set smoothly shifts from the opening number to the next scene in the Jungle of Nool.  The cat and Jojo gaze upon a jungle scene with colorful birds and animals while the pit adds a strong primal jungle beat.  During this scene, Horton the Elephant (junior Nate Kranz) finds a tiny speck of dust that can talk, sitting on a clover.  On that tiny speck is the town of Whoville where the Whos reside.  Among their numbers are Mr. and Mrs. Mayor (sophomore Jack Fishman and senior Delia Van Praag) the Grinch (junior Oren Barasch), and General Genghis Khan Schmitz (sophomore Wyn Stopford).

It is here when Jojo is inserted into the story as the son of Mr. and Mrs.  Mayor.  He performs poorly in school for “thinking” too much and is sent to military school.  It is the highly relatable plot of the misunderstood child, and is inspiring for younger viewers.  The scenes from the school build a theme of individuality and stressethe importance of understanding others.

It is at this point that the plot splits, one part follows Horton as he protects the clover, while the other follows Jojo as he experiences military school.

A run-in with the mischievous  Wickersham Brothers (junior Eric Rosenblatt, sophomores  Catlin Ferris and Max Miranda, and freshman Sameer Nanda) leaves Horton searching for the Whos in a field full of identical clovers.  Another unorthodox element is added to the musical as members of the pit orchestra put on clover hats to simulate the clover field.  Meanwhile, a love interest brews just beyond Horton’s notice.  The romance is entertaining and did not alienate less mature viewers.

Gertrude McFuzz (senior Julia Bain) is a little bird who flaps in the shadow of much more developed birds like Mayzie LaBird (junior Sydney Ronis) and the Bird Girls (seniors Taylor Eisenberg, Ani O’Hanlon, and Ashley Larsen).  What she discovers is that no matter how long her tail grows, it is never enough to catch Horton’s attention.  Eventually her tail grows so large that she is unable to fly and must get it plucked out.

“I think the fact that Gertrude goes through an extensive process to get a longer tail and then ends up back with her original one just states that you don’t need to change anything about yourself to fit in with the crowd.  We had the chance to perform for little kids every day this weekend and I truly hope they understood that message because it really is an important one,” said Bain.

Bain’s performance was one of the most lifelike in Seussical.  She was perfectly nervous and her acting was a great compliment to Krantz’s performance of Horton.  Their portrayal of young love was appealing, entertaining, and heartfelt.

The second act chronicles Horton’s adventures as a circus elephant.   Through numbers like “Mayzie in Palm Beach,” and “Amayzing Horton,” the characters are further developed for the adults while the music provides catchy tunes for the children to enjoy.   The protagonist JoJo runs into some unexpected trouble on the battlefront, leading audience members young and old into a state of concern and distress for the characters.   The buildup to the end of the musical is as dramatic and ridiculous as you would expect, and there is real power in seeing Horton give birth to an elephant bird.

Late in the play, we see Horton on trial for no crime at all.   The trial reflects the issues present in the modern justice system and the importance of listening to every voice, “no matter how small.”   The important thing about the messages in this scene is that they carry over to the entire audience, and not just the people looking for them.

There are also anti-war messages toward the end of the show.   Again, they resonate well with the younger members of the audience who may not have a full grasp on the serious subject matter.

“I thought it had an effective message on kids, without being too annoying or in your face.  The fact that it was about how to butter your bread, definitely helped make it a funny light hearted way to discuss such a heavy subject,” said cast member junior Sabrina Brennan.

Seussical was a highly technical production.  Creating the bright, surreal environment of Dr.  Seuss required more than just exemplary acting and singing.  The atmosphere depended largely on elements like lighting, sets, and costumes.  The mood of each scene was intensified by the rich lighting behind the set.

Much of the difficulty in putting Seussical together lay in the “logistics” of the play, said producer Ms. Christine Nelson.   “It required a lot of multitasking to put together the costumes, hair, and makeup.”

In an unconventional manner, crew members actually appeared onstage as characters. Thing One and Thing Two (senior Alex Zahn and junior Naomi Furst) appeared to be part of the company, while they actually were only present to move sets.

The production featured outlandish costumes, to match the wildly unrealistic storyline.  The Bird Girls helped to narrate the story while clad in fluorescent tutus and colored eye lashes.  Every member of the play, from the ensemble, to the pit, to the unhatched egg, received a distinct costume which proved that everyone played a key role in making the story come alive, supporting Horton’s (Nate Krantz) favorite line, “a person’s a person no matter how small.”

One of the primary antagonists of Seussical, General Genghis Khan Schmitz, was a well executed contrast to the likeable citizens of Whoville.

“I had to be more intimidating than the other characters, and not fit in,” said Stopford.   His performance is a welcome contrast to the happy go lucky citizens of Who.”

Stopford played the part well and elicited fear while onstage.  Marsigliano was hilarious as the Cat; his flailing motions and dramatic voices captured the child-like whimsy of the Seuss books, and delighted children in the audience.

Director Ms. Lauren Foster-Holzer described Liam as a “stand-out” performer and “the glue that holds the other cast members together.”   During the entracte, Marsigliano leapt from the stage to the Pit right below, replacing the conductor after a dramatically mimed argument.

“There really is no way to fully prepare yourself for such big characters.  I’ve never played a character like this before and everyday of rehearsal was a learning experience. I’d get notes on little things to tweak the night before the show, proving that this character can always be bigger and bigger.  If there was any preparation at all, I’d say it was watching clips of Rosemary Clooney and lots of drag queens,” said junior Sydney Ronis, who played Mayzie.

Pacht added several subtle touches to her on stage behavior, like swinging her legs slightly more than normal while walking or responding to the exciting motions of the Cat in the Hat by jerking her head in an exaggerated fashion toward his unusual gestures.

The pit orchestra provided a solid base for the showy musical numbers.   The musical talent of its members may have gotten to some of their heads, however.

“People come to see the pit, and just happen to enjoy the singers on the stage,” said bassist senior Miles Kurtz.

Like the works of Dr. Seuss, Seussical has widespread appeal.  Each audience member will take away something different from the experience.

“The message of Dr.  Seuss is solid whether you’re three or thirty three,” said producer Ms. Nelson. “Parents will want to come to this because the message is good whether you’re an adult or a kid.”

While Seussical is at first glance childish entertainment, there are adult messages hidden in plain sight among the playful rhymes and bright colors.  The relationship between absentee mother and child is explored in the instance of Mayzie and her egg, and Gertrude explores the complex emotions involved with getting cosmetic surgery to impress a member of the opposite gender.  Seussical is mostly good-natured fun, but there was plenty of food for thought for the adults in the audience.

“It depends on the individual who’s watching—kids love the silliness and slapsticky nature of it and the upbeat nature of it, while the adults prefer the storyline and the characters.   The sets and the costumes definitely appeal to everybody,” said director Mrs.  Lauren Foster-Holzer.

Seussical was a wildly entertaining and polished performance with ageless appeal.   The performances were delicate and the distinct atmosphere was facilitated perfectly by the sets and music.   Seussical was for everyone, at any time, and will definitely be remembered as one of the best Schreiber productions in recent history.