When Elizabeth High School's drama department pondered a musical, the obvious choice just had to be “Seussical.” With Horton and Jojo, and a hat-clad cat in tow, students and teachers put on a show … four of them actually.
Guided by the Cat in the Hat (junior Megan Kelly), Seussical combines the meter and stories from 15 Dr. Seuss favorites, weaving a musical journey through the places we can go, into the land of Who-hearing Horton the elephant (sophomore Seth Beebe) and inside the life of Whoville's Jojo (senior Kristin Dodd Sr.) — “the thinks she can think.”
“We get `Horton Hatches the Egg' and `Horton Hears a Who' combined with the Cat and the Hat and the Lorax,” said teacher and music director Allison Wagstaff. “Everything kind of weaves itself together.”
Producing a rock opera with 34 high school cast members and a live student orchestra took the time and patience of three dedicated teachers: Wagstaff, director Jennifer Barclay and pit conductor Megan O'Connor.
O'Connor, coming off a sixth-place finish in the state band competition in November, brought many of her musicians right into rehearsals last December, and in addition to directing, Barclay wrapped up three months of sewing last week to complete the 60 costumes her students wore during the two-hour production.
“It's such a high-energy show,” Wagstaff said. “There really aren't any dull moments at all. The story is constantly advancing. It plays to the child in everybody. One of our seniors is playing a 9-year-old girl. She's doing a phenomenal job, and she says this is what I felt like when I was a kid.”
Originally, “Seussical” was not a popular choice with many students.
“We asked them to see what they were interested in, but ultimately it was our decision,” Wagstaff said. “Initially they were kind of disappointed when we announced it. `Seussical? What is that? This isn't going to be a fun musical.' Now I think everyone thinks it's a fun musical.”
Seussical drew many juniors and seniors, veterans of previous Elizabeth High School productions, but both Barclay and Wagstaff were encouraged by some new faces on stage.
“We pulled in some younger performers too,” Barclay said. “We have quite a few freshmen and sophomores in the group … who at the beginning of the year didn't want to audition for a fall play. They felt a little more confidence and encouragement from the older folks to audition this time around.”
The four performances of “Seussical” included three evening shows on Feb. 25, 26 and 27 along with a Saturday matinee on Feb. 27.