Youth group will perform ‘Seussical!’ Friday and Saturday
Robert Goszkowicz scanned the auditorium, searching for just the right person.
“Do we get to get into costume now?” a slight, dark-haired girl interrupted, her hands pressed together in a pleading manner tucked up under her chin. Her body practically twitched with excitement.
“I will make an announcement when it’s time,” he said with a quick glance.
“Aaarrrggghhhh!” the 10-year-old groaned. “I just want to get in the costume so bad! I want to be in that skirt!” She jumped and turned in the air, and when she landed, Brea Bierman spun around a couple more times as she squealed, then scurried off towards the other children.
Goszkowicz couldn’t help but chuckle.
“I absolutely love it,” he said. “It’s more than children’s theater for them. It’s like camp … there’s lot of different places for different kids to shine.”
Close to 100 Portage County children and young adults will be in the spotlight this weekend as The Playhouse Theatre Group of Central Wisconsin puts on “Seussical,” the musical. Curtain rises at 7 p.m. Friday and again at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Saturday in the Stevens Point Area Senior High School auditorium. Tickets are $10 for adults, and $8 for children 12 and under. Tickets are available at www.playhousetheatergroup.com.
“Seussical” premiered on Broadway in 2000, and this version casts 95 Portage County actors and actresses to tell the story of Horton, an elephant who discovers a speck of dust containing Whoville. Among the Whos living in Whoville is Jojo, a Who child sent off to military school for thinking too many “thinks.” The musical tells the tale of how Horton protects the Whos while also guarding an egg abandoned by Mayzie La Bird.
What transpires can only be conceived by the fantastical storyteller Dr. Seuss. Along with Horton and the Whos, the musical incorporates in some way nearly 20 Dr. Seuss books, including children’s favorites such as “The Cat in the Hat,” “Green Eggs and Ham,” “And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street” and “If I Ran The Circus.”
Bella Nimm, an 11-year-old sixth-grader from McDill Elementary School, has been on stage before, but says this show has a different feel to it.
“It’s more unique than the other ones,” said Bella, who plays Jojo. “It has many different character traits in it, and a lot of fun characters.”
As the actors and actresses change scenes, the commotion rises to a dull roar before Goszkowicz can get their attention and focus on specific portions of the musical. It’s his first time directing with The Playhouse Theatre, but Goszkowicz, a senior math and computer information systems major at University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, said he is undaunted. This is his 15th production with the group, he said. He has assisted directing several other productions, and typically summer casts can reach up to 130, he said.
And he has just as much fun with it as the cast: dancing, wiggling, gesturing and singing right along with the others during a group number.
“At rehearsals, it gets kind of chaotic,” said Jackson Eckendorf, a senior at Pacelli High School who plays Horton. “It’s super cute at parts, it’s super sad at parts, it’s a really enjoyable show.”
Throughout the acts, the stage is adorned with Seuss-like animation: the brightly colored fuzzy trees, the large stripes and polka dots of the circus, and of course the colorful – and sometimes a bit comical – costumes.
It all is the fun of Seuss, though, the children say.
“Everyone gets to wear dorky costumes,” Brea, a fourth-grader at Madison Elementary School, said of the show’s silliness. “Dr. Seuss is kind of a quirky man, and he wrote really creative things. It’s fun to be in because there’s fun things to do.”
Some characters use ramps to get around, some dance, some do gymnastics, and there may even be some times that characters will join the audience.
For Jackson, there’s also the flip side of his own experiences: in this production, he, a large elephant, gets bullied by shorter, smaller and younger characters. And as Horton, he must work through how to handle all of that.
Though he has been in four previous musicals in school, this is the first part Jackson has had with The Playhouse Theatre Group, convinced to audition by classmates who also are cast in this production.
That camaraderie is a huge part of what makes the theater a wonderful place for such a large group of children, said Trina Bierman of Stevens Point.
“It’s just like family,” she said.
Trina, the mother of Brea Bierman, said this was the perfect outlet for her child, who at age 2 would imitate and act out Cinderella. “It’s such a neat experience. They meet so many new friends … they really support each other; there’s a great acceptance of everyone.”
And that makes the production all the more meaningful, the children said.
“It has a great story and great messages,” said Bella. who plays Jojo. “It’s OK to be different and believe in yourself.”
The cast includes:
Cat in the Hat: Nick Rosenthal; JoJo: Isabella Nimm; Horton: Jackson Eckendorf; Gertrude McFuzz: Delaney Lawlis; Sour Kangaroo: Ally Horgan; Young Kangaroo: Ellie Andrews; Mayzie La Bird: Laura Mitch; Mr. Mayor: Nicholas Langenhahn; Mrs. Mayor: Allison Kleman; General Schmitz: Rachel Jorgensen; Yertle the Turtle: Alexis Hall; Vlad Vladikoff: Nate Schultz; The Grinch: Kate Jorgensen; Thing 1: Deider Loyd; and Thing 2: Deizel Loyd.
The Bird Girls – Amelia Beyer, Brea Bierman, Sydney Grajkowski, Jayden Haase, Emma Kowalski and Paige Moyer.
The Wickershams – Riley Andrews, Ian Hall, AJ Jones, Nathaniel Rudnick, Jake Schultz, Nathaniel Smith, Cale Warzynski and Riley Warzynski.
The Butter Cadets – Emma Deptula, Eliana Duessing, Mikala Durall, Emma Hickethier, Ellie Luft, Isabella Montgomery, Allison Rust, Skylar Salinsky, Eli Schultz, Colton Thielman, Mitchell Thielman, Tatum Thielman and Wyatt Thielman.
The Whos – Olivia Allen, Sage Besemer, Zander Bishop, Ava Boettcher, Samantha Boettcher, Ruby Davison, Margaret Friese, Rachel Galecke, Mallory Greenwood, Isabelle Hinaus, Laine Ilkka, Chloe Kindler, Jessica Kleman, Maddie Moyer, Elizabeth Oakland, Shannon O’Donnell, Alec Pahnke, Ashleigh Pahnke, Jacob Pezewski, Johanna Rentfrow, Alaina Ruffner, Gabriel Smith, Greta Vollendorf, Payton Vollendorf and Evan Williams.
The Jungle Creatures – Maylie Allord, Alaina Berres, Ella Boettcher, Sophia Brandt, Natalie Cooper, Kylie Crow, Dylan Firkus, Wyatt Firkus, Matthew Frank, Elijah Grajkowski, Matti Guinn, Jacob Hickethier, Emily Hopper, Katy Ilkka, Grace Loomis, Aryannah Maas, Lindsey Molski, Audrina Placeway, Adam Rust, Drew Rust, Evan Rust, Odessa Turnquist, Alexius Wanserski, Isabella Williams and Allison Wisinski.