|11/14/2013 4:39:00 PM|
CLHS bringing colorful 'Seussical' to stage Nov. 21-24
by PAUL RIGNELL
Chisago Lakes High School is preparing a production of Broadway musical “Seussical,” first performed in 2000, for presentation 7 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, Nov. 21-23, and 2 p.m. showings Nov. 23 and 24. The story involves characters from nearly 20 books written by “Dr. Seuss,” or Theodor Seuss Geisel. Prominent roles in “Seussical” include Cat in the Hat, and Horton the elephant. After hearing commotion from the citizens of Whoville in one speck of dust on the petals of a flower, Horton encounters several female birds including Gertrude McFuzz, who was introduced in the Seuss book “Yertle the Turtle and Other Stories,” and Mayzie LaBird from “Horton Hatches the Egg.” This is the 10th annual fall production under the direction of David Seaburg, of Lindstrom. He says he had always considered “Seussical” while leading past acting troupes in musicals that included “Bye Bye Birdie,” “Cinderella,” “Beauty and the Beast,” “The Wizard of Oz,” “Annie,” “High School Musical,” “Oklahoma,” “Hello, Dolly!” and “The Sound of Music.”
Seaburg says he selects each year’s show based on knowledge of performers’ talents and the skills and personalities of students whom he feels are likely to newly audition. Chisago Lakes did not have the benefit of students with experience returning to the program this fall, as Seaburg watched 14 from “The Sound of Music” in 2012 graduate last spring. He views the 2013 season as a building year, which would fit what he describes as an ensemble musical in “Seussical.” It has given students familiar with background or supporting roles a chance to step into leads, such as Chisago Lakes junior Christian Leabo who will wear the big, gray ears in the role of Horton. Leabo has been dedicated to the program, saying, “I always look forward to the next show from the day we’re done with the previous show.” “Seussical” has proven popular among other youth and school troupes, though Leabo says he had not seen the show before his rehearsals began. “That way, I could really develop my own character,” he said.
The Dr. Seuss books have had a place in his home for years. Leabo noted he has a 2-year-old sister. “I read them to her all the time, and we both enjoy reading them,” he said. A key goal for this production is to entertain all audience members, but also to motivate them to read more for pleasure after the show, said the contracted director Seaburg; by day a third-grade teacher at Scandia Elementary School. “The minute you enter the auditorium, you are in a Dr. Seuss book,” Seaburg said. “It has a lot of heart, and it is two hours of singing and dancing.” For a young cast and crew at a school that offers no drama class, the director says he is impressed by the way Chisago Lakes students from various sports and extra-curricular activities unite as a new team on and off stage.
“For the six to eight weeks I’m here, these kids dance up a storm with limited training. They become a family,” Seaburg said. “These are the role models of the school. I have good leads in this show.” He credits returning set designer Mike Sandell, costumer Jolene Meyer, vocal coach Jacquie Undem and technical adviser Matt Mitchell, along with new choreographer Gerry Seaburg (the director’s wife) and many parent volunteers with helping to bring the show together. All seating is reserved for each presentation, and advance tickets are available online through the high school’s website or at the Performing Arts Center’s ticket window 4 to 6 p.m. weekdays through Nov. 20. Tickets are $10 for adults, or $8 for youth, students and older adults (minimum age 60). “I want sellout crowds,” the director said. “These kids deserve sellout audiences, because they’ve worked hard for this. They’re primed for this.”