By Jamie Reese
“Seussical the Musical” debuted at ESU yesterday and will continue throughout the week until the final show on Sunday afternoon.
The production will run today through Saturday at 7:30 PM and Saturday and Sunday at 2:00 PM in the SmithMcFarland Theater of ESU’s Fine and Performing Arts Center.
“Seussical the Musical” is composed of multiple Dr. Seuss stories mixed into one collaborative storyline, but mostly follows the plots of “Horton Hears a Who!” and “The Cat in the Hat.”
If for nothing else, go for the music.
“Dr. Betsy Buzzelli-Clarke has gotten a small ensemble together for the show,” said Dr. Margaret Ball, director of the production.
The five-person ensemble is a finishing touch unheard of in previous musical productions at ESU, and it highlights the tremendous vocal talents of the performers.
Michael Lloret, who plays the Cat in the Hat, won best male vocalist at the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival last year.
Lloret’s vocal prowess is made evident in “Seussical the Musical” by his ability to sing the varying styles and pitches demanded by the role.
While Andrew Scoggin’s character, Horton the Elephant, doesn’t demand the same type of vocal versatility as Lloret’s character, he sings with unmatched clarity and power, just as should be expected from the noble Horton.
Ayuana Rosario, who plays Gertrude McFuzz, has a softer voice, like that of a tiny bird. Despite this, she is not the least bit overpowered by Scoggin when they sing a duet.
From JoJo to Mayzie LaBird and the Sour Kangaroo, all characters were cast with voices and talents to match.
A potential shortcoming of the performance came not from the performers, but from slight lapses in the plot.
According to Ball, the performance at ESU is not the same rendition performed on Broadway.
“They took the longer work and tightened it up a bit…the show we’re doing is sort of an improved edition,” said Ball.
The tightening up of the work might have solved some of the musical’s original shortcomings, but it might have also created others. The climax of the story is resolved without a clear explanation, and many of the characters develop too abruptly.
Perhaps this is an effect of abridging the original work, or perhaps it is a result of mixing several stories together. Either way, “Seussical” requires the audience to use their imaginations. This fits a theme of the production: to think.
The “Seussical” team took that message to heart.
Professor Yoshinori Tanokura, scenic and costume designer for the production, thought up a vibrant Seussian set and helped to bring it to life.
“He builds a model every time he designs a set,” said Ball.
Once the model is made, the technical director helps build the life-sized version.
“We have a technical director in the shop. His name is Michael Thomas, and he looks over the build of the show,” said Tanokura.
Once the woodwork is finished, Tanokura and students paint the set.
“Students are the main builders of the set… we usually start about five weeks before the technical rehearsal,” said Tanokura.
Like the set, the costumes fit the production well.
“We tried to gather costumes that fit the style of the music. We added animal parts to the costumes as well to make them look Seussy,” said Tanokura.
Beside Seussian costumes and sets, the team takes advantage of props, such as a bubble machine, and special effects with lighting. The team has brought in guest light designer Chuck Pierce of Philadelphia to help with the production.
To see the light, find tickets online at esu.edu/theatretickets.
Tickets can also be purchased at the door. General admission is $12; faculty, staff, and seniors pay $10; students pay $7; and youths get in for $5.
With the holiday season approaching, let yourself be a Grinch — let your heart be filled with the sweet sounds of Seussian songs.
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