B y Derek Liebig
The world of Dr. Seuss will come to life this weekend on the Whitehall stage.
Under the co-direction of Avery Babson and Melissa Clark, the Whitehall Drama Club will present the Tony Award-nominated musical, “Suessical.”
“It’s a mix of multiple Dr. Seuss characters,” Clark said.
The musical is based on more than a dozen different books written by Dr. Seuss and features some of the author’s most iconic characters including the Cat in the Hat, Horton the Elephant, Gertrude McFuzz and The Mayor of Whoville.
It was written by Stephen Flaherty and Lynn Ahrens and made its Broadway debut in 2000. In 2001, the show was nominated for a Tony Award for best actor as well as multiple Drama Desk Awards.
“Seussical” tells the story of Horton, an elephant who discovers a speck of dust containing Whos, including Jojo, a Who child sent off to a butter battling military school for thinking too many “thinks.” Horton’s attention to the speck of dust and his “loitering” care of Mayzie LaBird’s egg has elicited taunting and accusations from the rest of the animal kingdom, except for Gertrude McFuzz, who longs for his attention, and JoJo, whose thinks save them all in the end. The story is narrated by the Cat in the Hat.
“The theme is about having and finding confidence within yourself,” Babson said.
Babson and Clark choose the show for both its practicality and teachable moments
“We wanted a fun, upbeat show that was character driven and would teach the kids the basics of theater; things like technique, stage presence and energy,” Babson, a Spanish teacher and local actress, said.
Many of the characters are also familiar to students, even if the story isn’t.
And from a practical standpoint, the show requires very costume changes behind the scenes, one less logistic to coordinate on a busy performance night. There are also minimal set changes.
The show does, however, present challenges.
“It’s all music; every line is sung,” Babson said. “Once you get out of time it can be hard to get back in time.”
The year’s production has also been one of change for the club.
Babson and Clark are both making their Whitehall directorial debut following the departure of longtime co-directors Marc Pratt and Chris Palmer.
“It’s been a transition for the kids and it’s been a transition for us,” Babson said.
Fortunately, much of the support that goes into staging the show has remained constant.
Francis Putorti is once again handling the lighting and acoustic, Cheryl Putorti organized the annual basket party, the club’s primary fundraiser, Joyce Leipfert will be helping coordinate things behind the scenes and Kathy Greenough is volunteering as well. Technology teacher Ben Reynolds and his students constructed the set.
“We still have the same community support we’ve always had. The same people that have helped are still here,” Clark said.
Auditions for this year’s show were held in early November and the cast the 39 cast members have been working on the production since Thanksgiving break.
“It’s been four or five days week,” Clark said. “We were set back by snow days and vacations but we’ll be good to go.”
Dress rehearsals were held last Sunday.
This year’s show will be held at 7 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, March 7 and 8. A matinee will be held at 2 p.m. on Saturday, March 8. Tickets cost $5.