“A person’s a person, no matter how small,” wrote Theodor Geisel, aka Dr. Seuss, in his beloved book Horton Hears a Who!
It’s a philosophy that Tony Award winners Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty surely took to heart before writing Seussical JR., presented by Carson City’s Wild Horse Children’s Theater for two weekends, April 21-30, at the Brewery Arts Center Performance Hall. This abridged, child-friendly version of the pair’s full-length Broadway musical, Seussical, captures all the magic of the original, complete with its pop/gospel/R&B-infused score and a cast of favorite characters from Seuss’ books … all within a concise hour, so that children of all ages can easily sit through and be delighted by the show.
And delightful it has proven to be. WHCT made a successful appearance in Sacramento at the annual Junior Theater Festival West in February, where they performed 15 minutes of Seussical JR. and scored top honors, capturing the Freddie G Excellence in Music award. Additionally, Anuhea Azevedo, a 14-year-old who is one of two troupe members playing the role of the Cat in the Hat, earned the Freddie G Outstanding Individual Performance award and was named a JTF Festival All-Star; Kai Moore, who plays three roles, including Yertle the Turtle, also was named a JTF Festival All-Star. Director Carol Scott was honored with the Freddie G Fellowship, landing one of five outstanding theater-educator spots; she’ll be flown to New York City this summer to take part in one-on-one development sessions with Broadway professionals.
Now this cast and production will take the stage at Brewery Arts. Scott directs the unbelievably large cast of 95 students ranging in age from 5 to 17. (Most roles are double cast, and quite a few kids fill out ensemble scenes.) It features choreography and assistant direction by Robin Kato-Brong, musical direction by Alan Catron and costumes by Tannis Causey.
The show, like its full-length forebear, is one big mashup of Seuss stories and characters. Narrated by the Cat in the Hat (played by Azevedo and 17-year-old Chastity Ward), the story begins with Horton the elephant (played in all shows by one actor, 13-year-old Micah Giron), who discovers a world of Whos living inside a speck of dust. While guarding the abandoned egg left in his care by Mayzie La Bird (played by Lillian Bentley and Olivia Briggs), he must also guard the Whos, whom he carries around on a clover, against the dangers of the world while everyone else in it believes him crazy. Only his friend Gertrude McFuzz (Aila McCaskill and Anna Bogh) stands by him through ridicule, danger and even a trial.
Woven throughout are some of the best-known Seuss characters, including Things 1 and 2 (Emma Wilson and Quinton McMasters, respectively), JoJo (Lily McCaskill and Landon Giron), the Grinch (Katie Koerner), Yertle the Turtle, Cindy Lou Who, One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish and Sam-I-Am.
Of course, any Dr. Seuss show must have fanciful sets, props and costumes. Scott explains that the Performance Hall stage has been painted blue with polka dots, and a 10-foot tower has been erected on which the egg can sit in its nest. Causey, in her first turn as costumer with Wild Horse, has brought her most whimsical sensibilities to the job, adding inventive flourishes to costumes and hairstyles. Props, many fashioned from odds and ends sourced at a dollar store, feature feathers, pool noodles and the like, all conspiring to create a visual smorgasbord.
“It’s a fun, upbeat show that has a lot of heart to it, too,” Scott said, adding that tickets are selling briskly. “It has a lot of meaning about taking care of each other. I always tell the kids, ‘There are no small parts, only small actors,’ and this is kind of the same idea. Everybody is important, no matter what they look like, where they’re from, or how big they are. So that’s a really good message for our kids to get out of this production.”
Seussical JR., a production of Wild Horse Children’s Theater, will be performed at 7 p.m., Friday and Saturday; and 2 p.m., Saturday and Sunday, from Friday, April 21, through Sunday, April 30, at the Brewery Arts Center Performance Hall, 449 W. King St., in Carson City. Tickets are $18 to $20 for adults; $15 for students and seniors; and $11 for children ages 4 to 12. For tickets and information, call 775-939-9106, or visit www.wildhorsetheater.com.