It’s no secret that Alden High School takes risks when it comes to its theatrical productions.
The ambitious group has been tackling shows that were never produced in the district’s history, including "Little Shop of Horrors" in 2015, "Tarzan" in 2016, "The Hunchback of Notre Dame" earlier this year, and now "Seussical." Known as an abstract, fun-for-all-ages show with an upbeat and catchy soundtrack and incredible visual effects, "Seussical" gets a special flair from the Alden group.
"Seussical" explores 15 of Dr. Seuss’ most famous children’s books, like "The Cat in the Hat," "Horton Hears a Who!" "Oh, The Thinks You Can Think," and many more.
With the Cat in the Hat (Tim Hinsken) carrying the show, the story follows Horton the Elephant (Zach Bennett), in the Jungle of Nool, where he discovers a small speck of dust that contains the "Whos," including the Who child, Jojo (Samantha Syracuse). Jojo’s imaginative mind and "thinks" are always getting her into trouble, so she is sent off to military school by her parents (Sam Hopcia and Carolyn Freeman). Horton is faced with not only the fate and protection of the "Whos," he must also sit on an abandoned egg in a nest that was left by the irresponsible Mayzie LaBird (Lily Hart).
Even though Horton is faced with criticism, kidnapping and near-incarceration, Gertrude McFuzz (Brooke Meyer), a bird who is at a conflict with her own insecurities, never loses faith in him. Despite all these hardships, the powers of friendship, loyalty and family prevail.
The mismatched and colorful three-tiered set, with two slides and crooked angles looks exactly like something Dr. Seuss illustrated himself. This is a major change for Alden’s design team members, who worked hard to master depicting more realistic scenes.
The technical team of 12 students led by T.J. Northem tackled the challenge expertly for a "stuck on a page" look.
Rather than looking at lighting as an afterthought, lead technician Max Northem integrated lighting right into the set design, transporting the audience into the mind of Seuss with the assistance of volunteer Chris Clark.
"Seussical" is the first musical Alden has done with its new two-story control booth built by the Northem family, who donated their time when the district approved funding for materials last year. The new booth is a state-of-the-art space that is used to control projections, sound and LED lighting, including the 20 moving intelligent lights used, something almost unheard of to other districts. The new booth and box office outside the auditorium are just the latest examples of co-director Matt Masci’s goal to enhance the experience for all students involved.
Costume director Amy Froebel led a team of volunteers to "Seuss-ify" all 60-plus performers, while volunteer Bill Holdsworth lent his expertise creating stunning special-effect makeup for the Cat in the Hat and the Grinch, among others.
To tackle this abstract story line and upbeat music, Alden is welcoming back alumnus Julia Wallace, ’07, as the choreographer for the show. Not only was choreography a difficult task, but the music is also complex with its complicated harmonies and, simply, the amount of music. This is the first production Alden has done that is almost entirely in song since producing "Joseph" in 2014. Nonetheless, co-director and vocal director Jill Farrell took on the challenge alongside the Pit Band, led by Bill Larrabee.
Alden High School performs "Seussical" today through Saturday at 7 p.m. There is also a 2 p.m. matinee on Saturday. Tickets are available online at aldenschools.org/boxoffice or at the door for $12.
Brooke Meyer is a senior at Alden High School.