By Joseph Pratt
March 2, 2014
Portsmouth Area Arts Council (PACT) is producing their annual senior company musical production with “Seussical, the Musical,” which is the closing show of their fourth season.
The show opened on Broadway in 2000 and ran for one year, giving 198 performances and 34 previews. The show also has an expansive background pre-Broadway, off-Broadway, with touring companies and at West End, London. The show was Tony Award and Drama Desk Award nominated, as well as receiving many other award nominations. “Seussical” has quickly become a favorite for schools to produce all over the country.
The story follows the characters and rhymes of the classic books written by Dr. Seuss (Theodor Seuss Geisel). Some of the storylines used in the musical include “Horton Hears a Who,” “McElligot’s Pool,” “The Cat in the Hat,” “Oh, the Places You’ll Go” and more. The musical showcases many recognizable Broadway tunes, such as “Oh, the Thinks You Can Think,” “Amayzing Mazie” and “Notice Me Horton.”
The colorful characters in “Seussical” will transport you from your seat to the Jungle of Nool, to the Circus McGrurkus and to the invisible world of the Whos. The Cat in the Hat tells of the story of Horton, an elephant who discovers a speck of dust containing Whos, including JoJo, a Who child sent off to military school for thinking too many “thinks.” Horton not only must protect the Whos from a world of naysayers and dangers, but must guard Mayzie La Bird’s abandoned egg. Although Horton faces ridicule, danger, kidnapping and a trial, the intrepid Gertrude McFuzz never loses faith in him. Ultimately, the powers of friendship, loyalty, family and community are challenged and emerge triumphed.
PACT has always let the senior company of their theatre troupe decide which show they produce the following season. Lovins stated that the entire cast of the previous senior show, which was Legally Blonde, all threw in ideas and “Seussical” was one that was top of a very short list of shows they were interested in.
“It had a lot of support from the previous cast, we knew it would be popular with the public and school matinees and it is also Dr. Seuss’s birthday month, so it is a great month to celebrate his accomplishments,” Executive Director PACT, Becky Lovins said.
Lovins said that even though they recently did the JR. version of the musical, the shows are vastly different.
“This show is two full acts, instead of just one that is condensed for the JR. version,” Lovins said. “There is an entire extra storyline with JoJo in the full version. In the JR. version, he sort of meets up with Horton and solves things, but in this version he gets sent to military school for thinking differently.”
Lovins said that “Seussical the musical” is the largest show that they have produced, both in size and in quality.
Adam Lucas, freshman, attends West High School and has been involved in theatre since he was in fourth grade. Lucas is not only a veteran on the stage, where he was been in around 15 shows, but he is also a veteran to “Seussical.” Lucas will be taking the stage as Horton, a role he played two years ago when PACT produced the condensed JR. version of the same musical.
“I’d say the Horton in this version is more passionate about keeping the promises he has made and kept. He is the kind of character that doesn’t realize he is a hero until the end of the production,” Lucas said.
Lucas said that not a whole lot is different in rehearsing the full show, rather than the JR. version, except for everything being much harder. Lucas stated that the choreography and music is much more complex and he has even strained to hit certain notes in his songs during music rehearsal.
Lucas said that he loves his character to death.
“He is just the lovable protagonist in every story,” Lucas said. “Even though there are a lot of naysayers, he still manages to get his message out to the audience about keeping the promises you make and showing your true feelings of devotion to a cause.”
Lucas said that he believes people will pick up the messages if they put themselves in the characters shoes, which the actors do a good job at making that easy for them.
Bailey Hartlage, sophomore, attends Clay High School and has been involved in theatre since she was in Kindergarten. Hartlage has been in over two-dozen shows, including the JR. version of “Seussical, the Musical” that PACT did two years ago, where she played Cat. She steps into another leading character’s shoes in this production as energetic and selfish Mayzie.
“I like my character,” Hartlage said. “She is all about herself and makes everything about her, but grows up through the show. Everything is still about her, but she still learns.”
Hartlage is a huge fan of the show and was glad to get the parts she received in both productions.
“I love that I got the opportunity to play two great characters in this production and I’ve enjoyed my time during both of shows.” Hartlage said. “I love ‘Seussical,’ it’s an awesome show. It has a lot of lessons that each character grows on. It also follows the Dr. Seuss books well to create the messages within the show.”
“Seussical, the Musical” will run March 14 and 15 at 7:30 p.m. and March 16 at 2:30 p.m. at the Vern Riffe Center for the Arts. General admission is $12 with reduced tickets at $10 for children under 12.PACT will also be offering group rate discount if you purchase more than 10 tickets at the McKinley Box Office. More information can be found at PACT’s Facebook and Twitter pages, at PAAC4Kids.org and by contacting the McKinley Box Office at 740-351-3600 or by visiting www.ticketmaster.com.
“One of the things I love about this show is the themes and morals that the characters go through. Horton goes through extreme hardships to stick by his friends and to do the right things and to be loyal. There are bullies in the show and the way the bullies interact with the rest of the cast and the way they turn things around.” Lovins said. “It has some really great themes that are relevant.”
Joseph Pratt can be contacted at Portsmouth Daily Times 740-353-3101, EXT 287 or by Twitter @JosephPratt03