Players Finish Season with Seussical
by Bob McLaughlin and John Lieder
Community Players’ summer musical will be Seussical: The Musical, a madcap extravaganza based on the stories of Theodor Geisel, better known as Dr. Seuss, the author of such children’s classics as The Cat in the Hat, Horton Hears a Who, and How the Grinch Stole Christmas. Drawing on a number of Seuss’s books, Seussical was written by Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty following their brilliant 1996 musical, Ragtime.
Seussical had rather a rough pre-Broadway experience. In early workshops the Cat in the Hat, who serves as host and narrator, was played by Eric Idle, of Monty Python fame and who is still credited with writing some of the material, and then by Tony Award winner Andrea Martin. When neither opted to continue with the project to Broadway, David Shiner, most well known as a mime, was cast (unhappily, many reviewers thought). As the Broadway run continued, a number of celebrities were brought in to serve a stint as the Cat and boost ticket sales, including Rosie O’Donnell and Cathy Rigby. Seussical was also among the first musicals to suffer from the age of the Internet: during its Boston tryout theater wags with computers were relentless in posting negative comments about the show, interfering with the authors’ attempts to fix problems and creating bad word of mouth in New York, from which the show never really recovered. When it opened in New York, at the Richard Rodgers Theater on November 30, 2000, reviews were mixed at best, and while the show delighted many, it never found a solid audience. It closed on May 20, 2001, after 198 performances.
Happily, Seussical has had a vibrant post-Broadway life, with a successful national tour, a London production, several author-sanctioned one-act versions, and countless regional, community-theater, and high school productions.
Our production includes about 45 very talented actors of various shapes, sizes, and ages, including a “Kids Ensemble” of nearly twenty. Major characters include The Cat in the Hat, played by Josh McCauley, Horton the Elephant played by Nick Benson, Gertrude McFuzz played by Lauren Guttschow, and Mayzie LaBird played by Brooke Schumann. Kyle Holliday and Jennifer Maloy portray The Mayor of Whoville and his wife and Kellie Nolan is the Sour Kangaroo. They are supported by Alan Wilson as General Genghis Khan Schmitz, Christian West as Vlad Vladikoff and The Grinch, and Isaiah Young as Yertle the Turtle. The Bad Girls are Alanah Halen, Allyson Troyanovich, Cassandra Hustedt, Kristen Woodard, and Wendi Fleming. The Wickersham Brothers are Austin Travis, Cally Robertson, Ella Joaquin, Peyton Tongate, and Ramsey Kendricks. Kelsey Holliday and Hannah Lovel lend their singing, acting, and dancing talents to the Adult Ensemble.
A few of the larger young persons’ roles are double-cast: Thomas Toohill and Natalie Maloy play JoJo, Ashtyn Mitchell and Delaney Schnell play Baby Sour Kangaroo, and Anna Dahmm and Monica Martinez play Cindy Lou Who. Each of these performers will get to shine in six of the twelve performances.
Children in the Kids Ensemble are Abby Briggs, Abby Naden, Anna Cordill, Anna Greenfield, Brynley Dowd, Eliza Heinrich, Elizabeth Gullixon, Emma Donnelly, Jaiden Mapugay, Jeb Bender, Kalen Mapugay, Karlie McCubbins, Kira Fleming, Mackenzie Lynch, Matthew Gullixon, Max Beck, Maya Davis, and McKenna Jensen. They are split into a Thing 1 and Thing 2 chorus.
Chris Terven has the heroic task of directing, co-choreographing and set designing this production. He has built an adorable set, featuring Seuss-inspired murals on the wings and a large Cat in the Hat hat center stage from which actors make frequent entrances. There is plenty of open space on the set – required for the several large chorus numbers. The Seuss motif extends into the house to immerse the audience in the Seuss experience.
He is assisted by Aimee Kerber who is Assistant Director/Co-Producer, Alex Lovel as Co-Choreographer/ Co-Assistant Director, and Judy Stroh as Stage Manager/Co-Producer. Teaching music to this large cast is the responsibility of a triumvirate of music directors: Jo Lynn Robinson, Michael Schneider, and Kyle Hoffman. (We are using professionally recorded music for this production. There is no live orchestra.) Eddy Arteman and Opal Virtue have created the marvelous costume design. Rich Plotkin and Eli Mundy are teaming up for the sound design. Brett Cottone is doing the lighting. Jay Hartzler is the Properties Master with help from Lauren Guttschow, Theresa Kerber, Dorothy Mundy, and Carol Plotkin. Sally Baugh is the House Manager.
The pay-what-you-can Preview performance is Thursday, July 9 with regular performances July 10-12, 16-19 and 23-26. Evening performances start at 7:30 and Sunday matinees are at 2:30.
Please note: Seussical contains silly language and may not be suitable for those who have no silly bones. For the rest of us, it promises to be a fantastically fun experience.