No Person Is Lesser Than Another: The Message of The Spring Musical
“A person’s a person, no matter how small.” You may have heard this line before, in a little story called “Horton Hears A Who”by Dr. Seuss. you may have also heard it if you made it out to see the spring musical this year, “Seussical,”with book, music, and lyrics, by Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty. Seussical originally premiered on Broadway on Nov. 30, 2000 at the Richard Rodgers Theatre in New York City. It is a musical based on many of your Dr. Seuss favorites, such as “Horton Hears a Who,” “The Cat in the Hat,” and “Oh, The Thinks You Can Think.”
“Seussical: The Musical” ran from March 21 through March 30 in the Anderson Chapel. The musical had over 30 people involved, from actors to stage crew, lights, sound, and the production team, many of whom are students themselves.
Theodor Seuss Geisel, the man known for surrealistic children’s books, created inventive worlds for kids throughout the post-World War II era. In “Seussical,” the characters are mixed together to tell a story of Horton, an elephant, who discovers a world outside his own, and makes difficult choices to rescue an entire civilization in the face of ridicule.
“Seussical” director and fine arts assistant professor Wayne Matthews said this year’s spring play had an important message for people of any age that underlies the wild costumes and antics onstage.
“[The message is] people are people, and they are important—no matter how small or seemingly insignificant,” Matthews said. “They are important and worth our time and energy.”
The show also ran in fall of 2012 at North Central University. Stage manager Kimmy Sweany, a senior theater major, said the show was familiar to students, although they weren’t on campus when the show ran seven years ago. The fine arts department also invited children with special needs to see the show 10 a.m. March 25, and knew the show’s message would resonate with them.
“We want to say to them, ‘you’re important, you matter,’” Matthews said.
The show had its fair share of challenges.
“The production was a little behind at times,” Matthews said.
They also have a number of people who are new to musical theater who were part of this production. The cast for the play was large, and North Central ran it even though they could have used four more people. The stage setting is also more complex than some shows.
“It’s a challenge to create two worlds that exist simultaneously on our stage when we can’t roll in and out scenery,” Matthews said. “We work[ed] with a creative design team who [were] up for the challenge, and who learn[ed] a lot in the process. I wouldn’t do this if I didn’t love the story or the music. Its catchy.”
This cast included a lot of kids, and that presented another stage hurdle, according to Sweany. She said many of the kids are cast through homeschool groups that are interested in theater. Others are found through campus connections, such as Matthew’s granddaughters.
Having kids in the play allows North Central students to do both acting and teaching.
“Some kids are more comfortable with us than others, depending on if they have worked with us before,” Sweany said. “They take direction and discipline really well from Wayne, and we really enjoy working with them. For this show, we knew Teshome, who played the character JoJo, from The Miracle Worker [last] fall, and through Hannah Jackson (a North Central Theatre Department alumni)”.
The real essence of the show is the characters in it, and two cast members were interviewed: senior theater major Zachary Opseth, who played the Cat in the Hat, and junior music business major Nicole Larson, who played Thing 1.
Of the casting process, Larson said, “It’s really simple. I think I did a song, and I sang ‘If I Only Had A Brain’ from The Wizard of Oz. They also had me read some lines, and learn a dance; we have a choreographer teach us part of a dance that we present in front of Wayne. Then we had callbacks. And once you get called back, you read over lines again to see what character he might want you to portray.”
Opseth said, “The casting process was eventful, because we didn’t find out who we were playing until after winter break, but the first auditions, we got to work with Alan Bach, who is a professional performer here in the Twin Cities. The audition, the callbacks, the second callbacks, those went really well and it was a good process.” “There are so many talented people in this and they pour[ed] their hearts and souls into their work. Every aspect of the show, the cast and crew poured their hearts into it, and we had students put together the set, design the set, the costumes, lighting and sound, and this is just a student created show. It’s excellent. I am very impressed with everything these students have put together and all the work that they’ve done with this show.”
Larson said, “The takeaway message [is] that no person is lesser than the other.”