Seussical, the fantastical, magical musical extravaganza, leaps from the pages of Dr. Seuss’ children’s books onto the Dennis Flyer Theatre’s stage in Mainstage Center for the Arts’ upcoming production.
Written by Tony Award winners Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty, Seussical runs Nov. 16-18 at Camden County College. It features more than a dozen Gloucester Township residents.
One of the most-performed shows in America, Seussical delights audiences of all ages with its colorful cast of characters including Horton the Elephant, Cat in the Hat, Jojo, Gertrude McFuzz and Lazy Mayzie. The mischievous Cat in the Hat (Shaun Levey, of Berlin) narrates, leading the audience on a roller-coaster ride of adventure, weaving story lines and characters together in exciting and unexpected ways. This madcap character disappears and reappears at various parts in the production.
“The cat is an incredible role. It’s allowing me to show the students who I teach and direct in theatrical productions just how intense acting can be if you just allow your inhibitions to go and give it your all. I love getting to portray up to 10 different characters simply through my facial expressions,” said Levey, who is also a teacher and Mainstage Summer Stage director.
Thrown into the Cat’s adventures is Jojo (Darby Pumphrey, of Mullica Hill), a young girl whom the Cat convinces to imagine, with him, the Jungle of Nool, where the story begins with the tale of Horton Hears a Who. The lovable Horton the Elephant (Joe Penn, of Sicklerville) tries his best to save Whoville and the small Whos including Jojo, and her parents, Mr. and Mrs. Mayor (Ryan Connelly, of Voorhees, and Brook Shellock, of Blackwood). The Sour Kangaroo (Chelsea Fields, of Sicklerville), Baby Kangaroo (Ashleigh Neilio, of Magnolia) the evil Wickershams, and others gang up against Horton.
“Poor Horton is considered the loser of the jungle. However, despite what others do and say, he is selfless and doesn’t change who he is for anyone. I’m really enjoying how sweet this character is. He teaches about believing in yourself and reaching your goals, even when others want to stop you," said Penn, a Rowan University Student who spent many of his younger days with Mainstage as a member of Encore Show Choir, Harmony Show Choir and Summer Stage participant.
Shellock is another cast member with long-term ties to Mainstage.
“This production has a very interesting dynamic because several of the adults in the cast, including me, are used to being on the directing end of theater—for the children in the cast. Many of us grew up at Mainstage and went on to become part of directing teams here, so the younger members of the cast don't really know the acting sides of us," Shellock said. "It has been most interesting to work on developing character connections with the kids in relation to my own character instead of understanding their characters from the big picture view.”
The story twists and turns from Horton Hears A Who to include snippets from Oh, the Things You Can Think!; The Butter Battle Book featuring General Genghis Kahn Schmitz, (Anthony Magnotta, of Runnemede); Horton Hatches an Egg with the selfish Mayzie (Cara Davis, of Collingswood) and love-sick Gertrude (Laura Wade, of Sicklerville); If I Ran the Circus; How the Grinch Stole Christmas (Brennan Boyle, of Sicklerville, as Grinch); Yertle the Turtle and Other Stories (Tommy Berardi, of Blackwood, as Yertle); and more. Other familiar characters include Thing 1 (Brian Lynn, of Sewell) and Thing 2 (Isabella Salurso, of Glendora).
“There are so many of Dr. Seuss’ well-known characters in this show,” said Wade. “The cast is really enjoying it and I’m sure audiences will, too. For me, playing Gertrude is a lot of fun. She’s very quirky, awkward and sweet. It’s nice to play a character with such a big heart.”
“Oh the places you’ll go” on this delightful journey through the world of Dr. Seuss, directed by Katie Keith, of West Deptford. The Cat in the Hat says, “Get your tickets today and don’t delay.” Ticket prices are $12 for senior citizens and children 12 and under, and $15 for adults.
Seussical, sponsored by Comegno Law Group, P.C., runs Friday and Saturday, Nov. 16 and 17, 7 p.m., and Sunday, Nov. 18, 2 p.m., Dennis Flyer Theatre, Lincoln Hall, Camden County College, Blackwood, NJ.
For tickets and information, please visit Mainstage's website or call 856-227-3091.