Nestled amongst the forests and lakes of northern Michigan is the Interlochen Arts Academy, the nation’s most renowned boarding school for students with a love for the arts. Beautiful natural scenery, a nice little town that becomes a Mecca for the arts during the summer, and at the academy a chance for students to be fully immersed in the arts year round. It’s small wonder that the school attracts some of the brightest talents across the country. The cast for Seussical includes high school students from more than twenty states, each of them impressive talents that make this ensemble of Whos in Whoville and jungle animals in Nool a marvel to watch as they inhabit their characters with rich personality, humor, and a fantastic chorus of voices.

The leads include Steven Johnson as the Cat in the Hat, recently honored as a Presidential Scholar in the Arts along with the theatre program’s director and one of his mentors, David Montee, as Distinguished Teacher in the Arts. Steven performs his role as the trouble-making Cat with mischievous glee as he gets the daydreaming boy JoJo (a charming, bright-eyed Helene Morse) into tubs of trouble, causes much anxiety as he stomps on possible who-infested poppies, and pops up in a variety of entertaining personas throughout this musical tour of the beloved Seuss books in this show by Stephen Flaherty and Lynn Ahrens (Ragtime, Once On This Island).

The primary story follows Horton the Elephant who hears the small whos and patiently sits on a bird’s egg, with several characters from other Seuss books cleverly woven in. Christopher Stahl from Lexington, Kentucky is Horton, and he gets much more out of the loyal elephant character than usual with his acting and his keen sense of humor as poor Horton is ridiculed by his peers, makes some new friends, desperately tries to help them, and occasionally is forced to consider his sanity – and even his own reality.

Other colorful characters include Emily Stout from Steamboat Springs, Colorado as an amazingly fun and flirty and vain Amazing Mayzie La Bird who tricks Horton into sitting on her egg so she can go on an extended vacation, handling her reunion with her egg, and her parting from it, with humor and, in the end, a moment of regret as part of her realizes all she is giving up. Bethany Jeffery (from Cincinnati) is a big voiced and saucy Sour Kangaroo. Local boy William Cotter and Oakland girl Kimberly Diamond make for a good team of quirky parents as the Whoville Mayor and his wife, the wife polite enough to say “thank you” when her husband lets her exit first through their front door (for which she gets on her hands and knees and crawls through, in one of several great uses of Chris Largent’s set). The Wickershams are a humorously mean and funky trio of monkeys consisting of Dan Lin (Gaithersburg, MD), Nicholas Sheehan (Ithaca, NY), and Emily Koch (Sherman Oaks, CA), the latter of which occasionally features higher, feminine vocals that give the other two brothers reason to pause. Emily Grodzik also runs into some gender bending as an evil eagle Vlad Vladikoff swooping down like the Wicked Witch of the West to take Horton’s whos, and later as a judge on a power trip and getting her/his voice as deep as possible (the Cat in the Hat slapping her on the back to help with the deepest note).

Director Robin Ellis and her team made this production work in all areas – great pacing, clever comedy, Judy Harrison’s lively and personality-driven choreography, Rory Baker’s painting of Chris Largent’s set with his gorgeous lighting touches, and Candace Hughes’s enchanting costumes that bring to life lots of whos, a sea full of exotic fishes, and all manner of jungle creatures including many endangered species researched by the cast such as a white-cheeked crested gibbon, an Amur Leopard, a red-eyed tree frog, and even a blue-footed booby bird.

Oh, and speaking of blue birds, did I forget about Gertrude? Heck, everybody does. She’s the plain-looking bird next door who’s got it bad for Horton, going through incredible lengths to try to grab his attention including a few hundred original love songs and some major tail enhancement surgery. Briana Gantsweg is brilliant role, with a voice that can do about anything and that she uses with great creativity, including purposely starting some of her songs off key as she finds the proper note (in fitting with her awkward character), and doing it all with a remarkable sense of humor as the shy but determined girl who goes nuts with her feather boa-enhanced tail, tying Horton up and doing every think she can think of in the hopes of making the love of her life notice her while he’s off saving whos and laying eggs and making Seuss come to life on the stage.

Performed May 7 - 10, 2009.

Rob Hopper
Executive Director
National Youth Theatre

~ Cast ~
Horton the Elephant: Christopher Stahl
The Cat in the Hat: Steven Johnson
Gertrude McFuzz: Briana Gantsweg
Mayzie La Bird: Emily Stout
Sour Kangaroo: Bethany Jeffery
JoJo: Helene Morse
Mayor of Whoville: William Cotter
Mrs. Mayor: Kimberly Diamond

Bird Girls:
Lauren Chapman
Sarah Keyes
S. Camille Nimocks

Emily Koch
Dan Lin
Nicholas Shuhan

Jungle Citizens/Circus:
Shelby Acosta
Shane Bauer
Zachary Cook
Jessica Gillette
Emily Grodzik
Michael Liebhauser
Virginia Luke
Chad Murnane
Kenzie Nothnagel
Elizabeth Pauley
Anna Petrovskis
Reilly Richardson
Lydia Winn

Chase Broderick
Katherine Cartusciello
Eve Cox
Kayla Frischkorn
Michael Hanna
Ellen Herschel
Melissa Jesser
Carl Johanson
Erik Johnson
Meghan McDonald
Brittany Nicol
Colton Pometta
E. Clementine von Radics
Sarah Spring

Emily Grodzik
Ellen Herschel
Michael Liebhauser
Kenzie Nothnagel
Elizabeth Pauley

Michael Hanna
Carl Johanson
Erik Johnson

Eagle: Emily Grodzik
The Grinch: Chase Broderick
Judge: Emily Grodzik

Director: Robin Ellis
Choreogaphy: Judy Harrison
Music and Vocal Direction: Melinda Rohn
Scenic Design: Chrs Largent
Costume Design: Candace Hughes
Sound Design: Jennifer Apple
Lighting Design: Rory Baker


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