By Kevin Baker and Jordan Katz
This Saturday-Monday, Hammond Theatre’s production of Seussical finally premiered for all the school to see! “Because we had so many snow days, we didn’t have as much time for experimentation in rehearsals…I feel like it’s worked out well,” said Lauren Tobiason, the director for the musical.
Seussical may be the best production Hammond Theatre has ever put on, and the audience certainly agrees. The audience for Saturday night’s show numbered 485, the largest crowd in Tobiason’s eleven-year tenure.
The story is based on classic Dr. Seuss tales and centers on Horton the Elephant (played by sophomore Jack Buzard) and Jojo, a tiny Who boy that gets in trouble for his vivid imagination (played by sophomore Jessica Ramon). There’s no limit to the heights these leads reach, and their talent shines through in solos like “Alone in the Universe” and “It’s Possible.”
Senior Jair Roberson also steals the show in his biggest role yet – the narrator of the musical and the famed Cat in the Hat. Roberson knows exactly how to act with this role, and he never goes too over-the-top. He creates a persona from the character that shines through anywhere, especially in the many solos the Cat has throughout the show. The reason the Cat works is because of Roberson’s talent, and his sassiness guides the production in a expert fashion.
A great amount of soul and depth was found in the characters of Gertrude McFuzz and Mayzie La Bird, played by senior Brigid Mangan and alternatively by freshman Rachel Wattanarungsikajorn and sophomore Kira Bennett.
Gertrude, a shy bird that finds it hard to express her love for Horton, could be played as a stereotype, but Mangan finds the person between the words. Her portrayal of the withdrawn bird finds the awkwardness in every word. The plot of finding love in the most unusual places has been done numerous times, but the chemistry and tenacity between Mangan and Buzard is palpable here, and the songs help contribute to a new sense of love being discovered for the first time. Her fantastic yellow Crocs as her bird feet also helped.
As Mayzie, the sassy and self-absorbed head Bird Girl with a fantastic tail, Bennett and Wattanarungsikajorn show a sense of knowing arrogance. Wattanarungsikajorn was the only freshman with a major role in the production, but her performance could’ve easily convinced you she was a senior in her fourth musical. They probably get the toughest song to sing, “Amayzing Mayzie,” in which Mayzie and her Bird Girls flaunt their vanity for all to see. Here, the scenery and choreography really shine, letting the ultimate lesson of being yourself and showing your true colors clear to the audience.
The antagonists of the musical are, among others, sophomore Jasmine Phillips as the Sour Kangaroo and freshman Hosea Mundi, and sophomores Han Wagner and Nick Zuelsdorf as the mischievous monkey Wickersham Brothers. All of these underclassmen show talent beyond their years and deal with some of the hardest vocal work in the production. Phillips, in particular, shows glimpses of her gospel voice on her solos, which brought the audience to its feet multiple times in the shows.
The supporting characters definitely contributed to the sense of wonder that comes with Dr. Seuss. The jungle creatures, Whos, and especially the Bird Girls (sophomores Rhea Bradley, Kira Bennett, Kathryn Cloud and freshmen Jenaye Rivers-Brooks, Isabelle Dyson and Rachel Wattanarungsikajorn) masterfully envelop themselves into the ambience of the stage, which uses limited space to evoke the spirit Dr. Seuss brings to everyone of his stories. In the world of the Whos, senior Kyle Robey and junior Flora Aubin as Mr. and Mrs. Mayor do well as Jojo’s concerned parents. Additionally, junior Kevin Aranyi is excellent as the war-obsessed General Genghis Khan Schmitz.
It was the last performance for a talented group of seniors. Roberson, Mangan, Jadon Sokoll-Ward (The Grinch), Emily Wible (Thing 1) and Logan Mitchell (Vlad Vladikoff) as well as the all seniors who were in the ensemble will be dearly missed from Hammond Theatre. However, the performance from the juniors, sophomores and freshmen in the show will leave everyone optimistic for the future plays and musicals Hammond will put on.
Overall, Seussical was not only a well made production, but it was also fun. Seussical struck a great balance of silliness and humor with serious moments in a show that had something for everyone. It brought the world of Dr. Seuss in an energetic and exciting way that would make Theodor Geisel himself proud to see. Everyone in the cast, crew and pit band did a superb job in all four shows, especially given the difficult circumstances that the snow presented them with. This was a show that successfully maintained the high standards Hammond Theatre holds themselves to and is something everyone involved should be proud of.