“Seussical” opens at Avonworth

Avonworth seniors Jenny Guest, Billy Molinari and Lauren Schoeppner rehearse a scene from Avonworth High School’s production of “Seussical, the Musical,” opening next week. Photo by Tom Steiner for The Citizen

After some of the more serious musicals staged at Avonworth High School, among them "Phantom of the Opera" and "Man of La Mancha," along comes the light and frolicsome "Seussical, The Musical" as this year's production.

But wait. Adults who think that the show has little to say to audiences over age 12, should think again. Director Deborah Frauenholz promises that it will be an enjoyable show, but that it also has some meaningful, all-ages messages.

"It's only a children's show in that the characters come from children's books. Kids will recognize the Cat in the Hat and Horton the Elephant immediately. The issues, however, are relevant and timeless: Doing the right thing, honoring commitments, believing in oneself, indulging creativity and imagination, being a true friend, seeing past other's shortcomings and recognizing one's own faults, and acknowledging that life is full of pitfalls, pomposity, and pleasure."

The show that opened on Broadway in 2000 has gone on to become a favorite of regional and school productions.

Frauenholz pointed out that "Seussical" is, ironically, similar in many respects to Stephen Sondheim's "Into the Woods," staged at Avonworth in 2009. "A host of Seuss characters and their stories are intertwined," she explained. "Characters go into and out of the jungle to tangle with life's issues, while both the Whos and the Jungle creatures impact each other's lives -- even without being able to interact directly."

The one constant is the Cat, an all-knowing narrator, charlatan, Pied Piper and mentor rolled into one.

Frauenholz said that the show fit the need for "…an ensemble piece to address the varied talents of the students and a vehicle for developing the skills of underclassmen who have not had major or supporting roles yet."

The production showcases the talents of 45 actors, grades 7-12, with two lead roles held by eighth graders. The crew of 17, along with eight musicians in the student orchestra, have been rehearsing since early January.

As with all shows, there were some problems to overcome. A designer backed out of the position, so the director had to design the set. "But it worked out beautifully," she said. "We also ended up designing and building all of the costumes and props for the show, with the exception of a couple pieces for two leads. A mammoth task!"

Parents assisted in myriad ways, from set construction, costume construction and design, to ticket sales, communications, concessions, program and advertising.

Every effort was made to keep many characters similar to those in the books, with set pieces also Seussian in design.

All graphics were designed by senior Billy Molinari, and junior Angie Tozzi designed and built her own costume for Mayzie LaBird.

Following an April 16 dress rehearsal for senior citizens at 4:30 p.m., "Seussical" will be staged April 17, 18, 24, 25 at 7:30 p.m. All performances will be held in the high school/middle school auditorium, with tickets $10 for students and $12 for adults/senior citizens.

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