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‘Seussical’ returns to CG’s stage

Alexa Jurado, Staff Writer

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Photo by Marta Dixon-Kolar

Twelve years ago, the students of Cary-Grove’s theater department put on Seussical the Musical. Now, a new generation of performers are ready to bring the world of Dr. Seuss to life once again.

While Seussical seems like quite a jump from last year’s Evita, about the life and death of Argentina’s First Lady Eva Perón, there is a method to the madness. Director Mr. Boncosky often likes to do “the opposite” of the production put on the year before, and what could be more suiting than Seussical the Musical?


Nothing could contrast with Evita more the wonder and whimsy of Seussical. Despite this, Mr. B said that the last time he did Seussical, it “surprised him.” He believes there is much more to the musical than there seems.

“If you don’t know it, it could just be like a kids show, and what’s so great about this musical is certainly it will be fun and playful and resonate with kids, but there’s a lot of heart to it, and a lot of an adult consciousness,” he said.

“It’s thoughtful, and there’s good stories and there’s great messages. It’s gonna be colorful and playful. A little kid is gonna look at his or her favorite Seuss characters on stage and think it’s very magical and imaginative, but an adult will see the heart and the morals and the messages that are portrayed in the story, so it’s got something for everyone.”

Mr. Boncosky also chooses the musical around the group of students in the theater department.

“I thought that the show itself really matched the talent and the spirit and the energy of the students we currently have,” he said. “Often I look at our clientele, the vibe, the energy, the spirit, like I said, and try to match a show that I think will best showcase their talents, and I think Seussical will do it.”

Many students involved in the musical were very excited when they discovered this year’s musical. After Mr. B erased one musical after another off the board, the dramatic reveal left the choir room cheering.

“My top 2 were Seussical and How to Succeed in Business, and those were the last 2 on the board,” said senior Alyssa DiRaimondo. “I really wanted it to be Seussical because it’s just such a happy and fun musical. When they finally erased How to Succeed, I was so excited and so pumped because I knew it was gonna be the best way to end senior year.”

Despite the excitement, not everyone felt that way. In fact, senior Justin O’Brien was not happy at all at first. He initially felt that compared to how amazing Evita was, and how special it was that a high school was doing it, Seussical might not live up to it.

“When I learned that the musical was going to be Seussical, I was very upset and shocked,” he said. “Seussical is one of those shows that is very hard to do well and every production I’ve ever heard or seen of it has been not up to par, and that just kind of puts a bad taste in your mouth.”

Even so, O’Brien said he fell in love with it the next day. Not only was it the music he learned to love, but the messages behind the music that make it special for him.

“I actually listened to the score over and over when I went to bed that night, and I fell in love with it, because I had never listened to the music before,” he said. “It’s so inspiring and there’s so many different types of music. It also had to do with the underlying ideas and morals of the story that you just can’t help falling in love with it.”

Something about Seussical that O’Brien also liked was the way he was able to create the character of the role he was playing on his own because it’s not a show everyone is familiar with, and he has taken advantage of that.

“Getting to learn the music and become the characters within the music has been super special because it’s not something I previously knew,” he said. “Because I didn’t know the music, I didn’t have a prerequisite idea of who I was playing or what I was singing, so getting to transform into the characters through the music, I would say has been my favorite part [of the musical].”

As the Cary-Grove theater department takes a second look at Seussical the Musical, they learn from their past experiences with the musical. They know what they want to differently, and what they want to better, taking from ideas that worked in the past, and improving on others. Not only that, but they are also able to do much more than they were 12 years ago thanks to the new Fine Arts Center.

“I’m 12 years older, and hopefully 12 years wiser,” Mr. Boncosky said. “Our performances are at a different level than they were 12 years ago. We have a facility now that allows for us to be much more technically advanced or sophisticated or savvy compared to what we used to do.”

A new cast also means a totally different show from the one 12 years ago. It allows for a whole new energy and new portrayals of the characters. This idea has so much appeal for people that the cast of the 2006 production is having a reunion so they can attend the show together.

Seussical also has its challenges, but nothing the Cary-Grove Theater Department can’t handle. First, It is what can be described as an “operetta,” meaning that instead of having a lot of scenes or dialogue, the musical is nearly entirely sung through. This means a lot of practice, and a lot of hard work.

Second, the cast is very large–93 students. This is because the show is ensemble-based, meaning that there are a lot of people on stage with a lot of music a lot of the time. Yet this challenge in particular has been very rewarding.

“It’s also such a huge cast with a lot of little main parts and leads, which is awesome because you see someone who you’ve never heard sing on their own before and they’re just killing it out there,” said DiRaimondo. “It’s just so amazing to see people shine and do what they love to do.”

Another challenge of the show is costumes and the set. Trying to portray birds and elephants and kangaroos is not easy, and neither is designing a set that accurately pays homage to Dr. Seuss’ books.

“We’re not going literal with those costumes,” said Mr. Boncosky. “They’re kind of fun and representations of those characters, so that’s always a fun challenge, to think of how we are going to portray them not only in costume, but in movement. The set, we want it to be fun and look like you’ve kind of jumped into a Seuss book. He did his own illustrations, and he’s got a very unique style, and trying to make the set kind of honor and represent that, I think is a challenge.”

Actors struggle with roles at times as well. For both Justin O’Brien, who plays Cat in the Hat, and Alyssa DiRaimondo, who plays Gertrude McFuzz, this is their first musical lead role at Cary-Grove, which can be stressful.

“I’m terrified!” exclaimed O’Brien. “It’s been really weird to hear myself, and so that’s definitely taking a lot of getting used to. I’ve always just been like the chorus boy that has to follow everyone’s dance steps and blend in with everyone. I’ve never been in a role that their whole point is to stick out, so it’s definitely a lot of adjusting to do, but it’s fun and it’s amazing. I’m so excited to perform it.”

“It’s nerve wracking going out there and singing on your own and being so vulnerable for something that you’re so passionate about, but with this community, everyone is just so supporting and so amazingly accepting, that it just it makes it go by very easily,” said DiRaimondo.

Playing Dr. Seuss’ eccentric characters can also be a challenge at times.

“The Cat plays a lot of cameo roles throughout the show, I actually counted and I play 8 different ‘roles,’” O’Brien said. As he goes back and forth from character to character, he has to be careful not to confuse the audience.

“I have to really work on my delivery on my lines especially, because the Cat is super mischievous and he wants the audience to get intrigued,” O’Brien said. “He wants to invite them to believe the story that we’re telling, but the other characters aren’t like that, and so I really have to be careful and make it super clear when I’m the Cat versus when I’m someone else.”

On the other hand, compared to her last role, Eurydice in the play Eurydice, Alyssa finds her character Gertrude McFuzz easy to play.

“The difference between them is so drastic. Eurydice was very much to her herself and more focused on herself than others. Gertrude is just always caring for others and always trying to help people. I’m more of a happy person like Gertrude, so it’s so much easier to play Gertrude,” she said. “We’re all these crazy animals and have really weird voices and it’s just so fun. You have to be creative in how you move and how you speak and it just lets people’s creativity show a little more.”

So far, the experience in the musical has very much been a positive and rewarding one.

“I worked so hard for auditions and stuff and so seeing my name on the board was just such an amazing accomplishment and just so awesome to feel that all my hard work paid off,” DiRaimondo said. “There’s of course some hardships and it takes a lot of time but in the end it’s just going to be so fulfilling and just so awesome to do. I’m really excited.”

Seussical is bound to be a success, not only because of its costumes, special effects, styles of music, choreography, set design, direction, makeup, and singing, but most of all the time, energy, and attention to detail put in by the students, teachers, and parents. Alyssa said that they are her favorite part of being involved with Seussical.

“Everyone’s just so supporting and accepting of each other. It’s such an amazing place to see so much happiness and support and acceptance from such a big group of people, which I absolutely love,” she said.

Mr. Boncosky called Seussical not only a “crowd-pleaser,” but a “participant-pleaser.”

“What I mean by that is you can’t help but have fun performing this show. It doesn’t matter if you’re the Cat in the Hat or Horton, which are some of our big leads, down to the ensemble members. Anybody who’s in the show, I think, is going to have a really good time, and watching the show, you leave feeling touched, inspired, entertained, you laughed, the music is great.”

The musical runs March 9, 10, 11, 15, 16 and 17. Don’t miss your chance to be part of the fun!

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‘Seussical’ returns to CG’s stage