Seuss’s animals ready to hoof it on stage


The dancers on the stage don’t just look this good by chance. There are long hours of practice behind the scenes in order to create Suessical the Musical. Mrs. Krigas, the choreographer, has helped these dancers achieve feats they never dreamed possible.

“We have a long rehearsal process and they get motivated because I believe in them,” Mrs. Krigas said. “It’s certainly to the metaphor of life that if someone tells you they believe in you, you’re way more likely to succeed.”

That motivation is not lost on the student performers.

“The reason our shows are as amazing as they are is because Mrs. Krigas believes in us to work hard and live up to her expectations,” said senior Faith Poppe, who is a veteran of the Cary-Grove theater.

The show is full of difficult dances and stunts such as gymnastics, juggling, and flying. Many of the actors who perform in these roles had to go outside of their comfort zones.

“[I] set a high bar for what they’re going to do physically in the show,” Mrs. Krigas said. “We’ve had to ask some kids to learn gymnastics that hadn’t really done that stuff before.”

With the bar set so high, Mrs. Krigas said that even if the actors cannot reach this goal, they still are performing at a high level. With this said, throughout the process of learning this choreography, the students have been able to develop their talents beyond expectations.

“I feel like the challenging choreography has really helped [me] and everyone to push ourselves to our best capability,” said sophomore Eva Hahnfeld, who is taking part in her first high school musical. “By using this challenging choreography, [Mrs. Krigas] has influenced us to practice more and work even harder, so that we have an amazing show.”

Mrs. Krigas started choreographing musicals during her sophomore year at CG. She continued choreographing at the University of Illinois, where she performed in and choreographed nine musicals as a student. Overall, Mrs. Krigas has been involved either in performing, choreographing or directing about 60 musicals.

With so much experience, Mrs. Krigas has developed methods to deal with choreography challenges when they surface.

“Going to bed and sleeping on it and having my brain process it all while I’m sleeping is how I come up with some of my very best ideas,” she said.

With such an elaborate musical, there are bound to be challenges for everyone, especially considering most of Dr. Seuss’s characters are animal-like, and many of them are like nothing we’ve seen before.

“In the Jungle [of Nool] we are trying to replicate animal movement and trying to incorporate animalistic physical qualities to what the kids are doing with their dancing,” Mrs. Krigas said. The dancers and Mrs. Krigas have found that replicating animal movement has proven to be quite difficult throughout the process of learning this scene.

“If [the dancer] were in a dance class they would technically be trying to do things really well, and I’m saying, ‘No, you’re a monkey, you have to hunch your shoulders and get down to the ground and let your arms hang.’ [They shouldn’t] hold themselves up in a dancer kind of way but to make sure their body language is helping me understand that they’re creatures in a jungle,” Mrs. Krigas said.

In contrast, Mrs. Krigas said that in Whoville, the movement is very stiff and the dancers dance “almost like dolls.” Throughout the musical the actors have to abandon a lot of dancing technique that had been drilled into their brains since day one of their personal dance training.

“I’m so used to dancing a pretty lyrical or ballet dance, and I have found it challenging to change your mindset to this quirky and funny kind of dancing,” Hahnfeld said.

“In The Jungle of Nool, I play a parrot, and therefore [I] have choreography that enhances my character as a parrot. It is an amazing experience to play a character completely different than myself,” Poppe said.

The effort the dancers put into their role is a key factor in the display of the setting.

“My hope is that when people are watching, they get a feeling for which world we are in,” Mrs. Krigas said. “Not only from the characters that are on stage, but also form how they’re moving, how they interact, and how they use their bodies.”

Since all of the characters in Seussical came out of separate Dr. Seuss books, the aim of the musical is to “stay true to what Dr. Seuss intended,” Mrs. Krigas said. In the choreography, the characters have to be portrayed as if they came right off the page of their book, which is easier said than done.

In the song It’s Possible, there are 12 dancers that represent three fish each. They wear two fish-like puppets on their hands and a fish on their head. So when dancing together, they all look like a school of 36 fish.

“As [the girls] leap and jump and turn, your eye is following three fish moving, and there are black lights so a lot of that is glowing,” Mrs Krigas said.

The choreography for this song and parts of other songs are completely new from CG’s last showing of Seussical in 2006. In fact, the stage is entirely different.

“Twelve years ago the proscenium of the stage was 13 feet tall and now it’s almost 20 [feet tall]…Everything had to come on from stage right; you could not get to the left side of the stage without literally walking around the outside of the building,” Mrs. Krigas said.

Since no one could get to the left side of the stage without going outside or by crawling behind the back of the set onstage, this provided a challenge for Mrs. Krigas when choreographing. With one entrance of the stage being a challenge to get over to, this provided a difficult time for Mrs. Krigas when she had to choreograph who came on and off each side of the stage. However, the new stage has allowed for access to both sides of the stage, which made the choreographing process a little easier.

Not only has the stage changed, but the actors and their abilities have changed as well.

“As a choreographer, I always want to cater to the abilities of the actors that we have,” Mrs. Krigas said. “Obviously, kids playing the part this time versus 12 years ago… [is very different from] what our bird girls or Wickersham brothers might be capable of doing.”

A good example of this is the Cat in the Hat. In the production 12 years ago, the actor was a great showman and was very humorous to the audience. However, in this year’s production of Seussical, senior Justin O’Brien plays the Cat in the Hat, and he is a trained dancer. Therefore, this allowed Mrs. Krigas to showcase his abilities since it is an atypical thing to have a dancer play the Cat in the Hat.

“It’s an acting, comedy, showman kind of part that does not require you to dance,” Mrs. Krigas said.

Given how much has changed in 12 years, even people who have seen the show are certain to have a new experience watching this cast bring Dr. Suess’s world to life with their movements.