'Seussical' plays Syracuse

Tuesday , July 08, 2014 - 2:06 PM

Cat in the Hat Syracuse, Heather Steed.jpg

Heather Steed plays The Cat in the Hat. ...

By AMY NICHOLSON

Standard-Examiner correspondent

A pesky cat in a red-and-white top hat describes the challenges faced by a determined elephant trying to save a tiny town.

Many of Dr. Seuss’s most beloved children’s book characters come to life in “Seussical the Musical.” The show opens July 18 in a community theater production at Syracuse High School.

Director Marinda Millard said more than 140 hopefuls showed up to audition for roles such as The Cat in the Hat, Horton, the Mayor of Whoville, Gartrude McFuzz, Yertle the Turtle and more.

“I think people are starting to see that Syracuse is putting on high quality productions and they want to be a part of that,” Millard said.

Millard, of Syracuse, studied theater for a few years at Weber State University, and has directed several shows in the community. Her husband, Darren Maxfield, graduated from WSU in theater in 1997.

The couple frequently works on shows together, and runs Next Stage Productions. Maxfield is designing lights and sets for this show.

Millard thinks “Seussical the Musical” is a winner for the community.

“They wanted a really great, family friendly show that would use a lot of ages in the cast,” she said. “We have about 25 kids ages 5 to 12, a dozen teenagers, and about eight adults.”

In an opening number, the Cat in the Hat sings “Oh, the Thinks You Can Think!” to draw the audience into a world of imagination.

Next, we meet big-hearted Horton, the elephant whose enormous ears enable him to hear cries for help from a tiny village of people living on a speck. Paralleling the story in the classic children’s book, “Horton Hears a Who,” he places the speck on a clover for safekeeping and then starts being harassed by the other animals in the jungle.

Horton is made fun of because the others don’t believe his claim, and a grouchy kangaroo becomes his nemesis.

Other popular Dr. Seuss characters are incorporated in the story. Gertrude McFuzz, the bird who wishes for prettier tail feathers, is Horton’s neighbor and one of the only animals who is kind to him.

The Whos are the creatures inhabiting the speck of dust, and they are introduced as they share their yearly Christmas pageant — a story about a Grinch who once stole Christmas. They also voice worries about the destruction of their beautiful Truffula trees from the storyline in “The Lorax.”

“It is an adventure of the imagination,” Millard said. “These are the same characters I read to my kids at night. The costuming is bright and wonderful, and the audience will enjoy the music and choreography too.”

There is also a message.

“It is really fun,” the director said. “I love it because the show is about not fitting in and making that OK for yourself and being able to stand up for what you believe.”

A lot of creative props are used. For example, a bathtub becomes a yellow submarine, and the cast makes reference to the popular Beatles hit “Yellow Submarine.”

“We use a lot of imagination, and we have a lot of fun pop culture references,” said Millard.

A troublemaking group of monkeys, the Wickersham Brothers, is portrayed as a group of ninjas, and shows off the martial arts abilities of the show’s teenage cast.

The story continues down a road of fast-paced adventures with appearances from all kinds of characters, including some from Dr. Seuss’s “ABC” book, such as Aunt Annie’s Alligator and the brightly colored Zizzer Zazzer Zuzz.

“I hope people will be entertained and that the energy will carry them through to the end,” Millard said.

Will Horton be able to convince the jungle animals of the Whos existence? Will he be sold to the circus? Will the Cat in the Hat be shipped off to military school for a behavior makeover?

Come find out at Syracuse High School.

PREVIEW

  • WHAT: ‘Seussical the Musical’
  • WHEN: 7:30 p.m. July 18, 19, 21; 2 p.m. July 19
  • WHERE: Syracuse High auditorium, 665 S. 2000 West
  • TICKETS: $5-$8; www.syracuseutaharts.org/theatre
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