Snapshots by Gloria Freeland - Nov. 20, 2009

Spectacular "Seussical"

It's not easy maintaining the interest of youngsters for 20 minutes, so for them to remain attentive for more than an hour requires something special.

Riley County High School's Friday matinee performance of "Seussical: The Musical" did just that. When Director Janie Brokenicky asked how many of the youngsters were familiar with the Dr. Seuss (Theodor Seuss Geisel.) books, almost every hand was raised. So they responded immediately to the Cat in the Hat and other characters, often mimicking what the actors were doing on stage.

But the show is for youngsters of any age. The majority of the story takes place in the creative mind of JoJo, a young boy played well by the youngest cast member, seventh grader Jordan Swanson. JoJo first imagined a hat that he then fantasize belonged to a cat. The mischievous Cat in the Hat, played perfectly by Bekah Bailey, narrated the story while popping in and out of scenes.

Trevor Geisler handled well the role of the thoughtful, loyal and perhaps a bit naive Horton the Elephant, who lived in the Jungle of Nool and discovered the Whos - tiny people who lived on a piece of dust. Most of the other jungle creatures thought Horton had lost his marbles except for Gertrude McFuzz, a gutsy, kind, albeit plain bird energetically portrayed by Courtney Hall.

Janelle Bailey was a strong Sour Kangaroo, belting out songs like a gospel singer. Notable performances were rendered by Kaley Flack as the flamboyant, not-a-care-in-the-world and somewhat irresponsible Mayzie La Bird, Brian Ingalsbe as the mayor of Whoville and Sidney Westervelt, as his wife.

And the cast was rounded out by strong supporting cast members - Who Men, Who Women, the Bird Girls, the Wickersham (Monkey) Brothers, a leopard, a lion, an assortment of fish, Vlad Vladikoff, the Grinch, Yertle the Turtle and hunters.

I suppose I'm somewhat prejudiced because I'm the proud mother of one of the actors. But I wasn't the only one who was impressed. David Littrell, K-State music professor and Gold Orchestra conductor, knows musical talent when he sees it. He attended Thursday night's performance and expressed amazement that such a small school could put on such a grand show. Judging by the broad smiles when the house lights came on, I think it's safe to say it was a great production.

Saturday's performance was just the icing on the cake, the culmination of weeks of work by Janie, the cast, choreographer Bekah Splitter, stage manager Stacy Hauck, musicians, and lighting, sound and set design specialists.

Parents and other teachers pitched in by providing lighting and sound design, making costumes, building sets, bringing in treats, helping with make-up and hair and doing other behind-the-scenes odd jobs. Janie's husband Cole got into the act by operating the spotlight. Misty Klima in the high school office helped with posters, the program and other publicity.

The National Honor Society and Family, Career and Community Leaders of America provided food and decorations for Saturday night's dinner theater in the school cafeteria. Place mats for the dinner were laminated drawings of Seuss characters, made by grade school children.

And all the choral talent, choreography, costuming and collaboration paid off in a big way. In a word, the production was spectacular. When the show was over, I found myself humming "Oh, the Thinks you Can Think," "Amayzing Mayzie," "Alone in the Universe," and "Solla Sollew."

So when the curtain closed on Saturday, I was disappointed - I liked it so well I didn't want it to be over!

And daughter Katherine, a "Bird Girl" in the musical, also felt a bit bereft herself.

"I don't know what I'm going to do with myself now that it's over," she said, wistfully. "Now I'll have all this extra time on my hands."

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