Seussical Jr. takes the stage

Dress up the kids and get them down to the Magic City Campus on Thursday, Friday or Saturday. The Western Plains Children’s Choirs is presenting “Seussical Jr.,” a musical designed for exactly the cast that’s performing it – young entertainers, age fourth grade through sophomores.

“We’d like the kids in the audience to come at 7 p.m., although the show begins at 7:30, because we’re having a meet-and-greet with the characters,” said Holly Eidsness, first-time director with WPCC. “You’ll be able to take photos, or if you want us to, we’ll take photos and have them autographed by the character, ready to pick up at the end of the show. We’re asking for a small donation to help cover the cost of printing them, that’s all.”

Although it’s her first time with this group, it’s hardly Eidsness’ first time as director working with children, or of musicals. She has a long, successful background with the Mouse River Players, and when WPCC musical director Laurel Livingston needed a fill-in, her first thought was of Eidsness.

“She’s just the perfect fit for us,” Livingston said.

It’s the last time for Kaylee Kapp, who’s playing the Cat in the Hat, narrator and comic relief, who takes on several personas to tie everything in the show together.

“The show is so energetic,” Kapp said. “It’s full of excitement. You’ll hear the (Seuss) language you grew up with, and if you’re a big Seuss fan, you’ll recognize the different rhyming schemes from the different books.”

“Seussical Jr.” is based on “Horton Hears a Who” and “Horton Hatches the Egg,” but incorporates parts from a dozen of the books of Theodor Geisel, aka Dr. Seuss. As it begins, JoJo, played by Kate Melkert, stumbles on an odd hat. She imagines the Cat, who then appears, along with the other primary characters. Horton, played by Tyler Johnson, discovers a bit of dust from which, with his big ears, he can hear voices no one else can, so he puts it on a clover so he can protect it. This is where the next book comes in.

“Gertrude (Sydney Johnson) is in love with Horton, but he doesn’t recognize it,” said Eidsness. “She’s upset because she’s a bird with only one feather in her tail. Mayzie (Katie Denney) helps with that. She’s sitting on a nest, but abandons the egg, and Horton needs to save both the Whos and the egg.”

Livingston picks up the story: “All the people in the jungle put Horton on trial to boil the clover, but this cannot happen! The Whos, led by the Mayor and his wife (played by Jacob Charley and Heather Bateman) are shouting to be heard and JoJo hears them.”

The Sour Kangaroo, played by Ashley Davis, and the Wickershams (Travis Barnes, Camden Gifford and Kalen Hill) are shouting on the other side, and during this exchange, she directs the children to produce “a wall of sound.” As veterans of years of performing together, these and other ensemble members demonstrate that they’ll be ready to take lead roles in future shows just as the Cat and JoJo have done.

The music is a soundtrack, which is unusual for the group, which generally uses a live band, but there are so many special sound effects to produce the jungle sounds, this is “the way to go,” said Livingston. Eidsness praises her wardrobe mistress Angie Thompson, who organized the parents and raided several costume shops in town in order to produce a colorful vision to enchant the eye.

“Everything flows,” Eidsness said. “There are no set acts, and lots of quick changes. It’s great that we have Alphonse Koenigsman as technical director. He designed the set, lights, sound, all of that.”

There are three shows beginning tonight, all costing $10, with children under 6 just $5. “It’s great for the little ones because they know the characters,” said Eidsness. The venue is Magic City Campus, with unlimited parking in the west lot.