The Cambrian

‘Seussical’ comes to Cambria

First-grader Jasmine Pena, above right, is captivated by ‘Seussical’ director Kirk Henning’s reading of the Dr. Seuss story ‘The Cat in the Hat’ as part of Read Across America celebration March 2 at Cambria Grammar School. Community members were asked to share their favorite Dr. Seuss book with students in kindergarten through fifth grade in celebration of Dr. Seuss’ birthday.
First-grader Jasmine Pena, above right, is captivated by ‘Seussical’ director Kirk Henning’s reading of the Dr. Seuss story ‘The Cat in the Hat’ as part of Read Across America celebration March 2 at Cambria Grammar School. Community members were asked to share their favorite Dr. Seuss book with students in kindergarten through fifth grade in celebration of Dr. Seuss’ birthday. PHOTO BY HEATHER STEPHENSON

Why is “Seussical: The Musical” especially good for our high school community theater?

According to Director Kirk Henning, this play is different than any other produced by Coast Union High School’s drama department because it is told mostly through song. And it is CUHS’ first musical with a modern score.

“It’s amazing the amount of talented youth we have in our small community,” Henning said, “as well as outstanding singers and an excellent live orchestra.”

Henning further explains, because of the nature of the show, the cast and crew includes students from the grammar, middle and high schools, as well as adults who are experienced in musical theater.

“This show is based on the stories of Dr. Seuss, who created rich and fantastical worlds in his books,” Henning said. The writers of the musical used elements and characters from 15 Dr. Seuss books and wove a story that is both poignant and whimsical.

The thread of the story involves Horton the Elephant and the challenges he encounters in trying to protect the Who community while struggling to keep his promise to take care of Mayzie LeBird’s egg.

“The wonderful thing,” Henning notes, “is each person gets something different out of a particular piece, depending on where he or she is in life. As with all Dr. Seuss books, the themes cross a broad spectrum and include loyalty, integrity, creativity, self-actualization and prejudice.”

Henning points out the universality of the play’s theme. It is not a play just for children—but instead mixes characters to which children can relate, with humor and poignancy that captivates adults. “Our version of Seussical,” he says, “incorporates familiar Dr. Seuss characters with a large dose of comedy. It’s entertaining to all.”

Henning expresses elaborate praise for producers Joe and Lani Zaragoza, who he says have done “a great job” of organizing. Choreographer Karen Garman, he declares, has added a touch of whimsy to the musical numbers. Music directors Randy Schwalbe and Kit Hansen, he adds, have exceeded excellence in organizing the orchestra and working on the vocals.

“Tigg Morales,” he continues, “has used her art design skills to create a Seuss-like world on our stage! Ted Fowler, who happens to own a world-renowned lighting company, has generously over the years allowed us to use state-of- the-art professional lighting and staging for our performances. And Syd Carr creates good sound in the high school gym. We have the advantage of all the best theatrical tools to help transport audiences on this Seussical journey.

“But without adequate promotion, we could play to an empty house. Stephanie Stacy and her Central Coast Pep Squad have performed promotional skits in many places to be sure everyone will know about us.”

“It is always rewarding to go through the process of staging a show,” Henning says. “Once the audience is in the seats and the lights go down, it’s a thrill to see how it turns out. And it’s a thrill to see the students mature as performers. Each show is a huge commitment, no matter how big or small. But once you get the bug, you’re bitten forever.”

“Seussical: The Musical” will be performed at Coast Union High School at 7 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and at 5 p.m. Sundays, March 19 to 21 and March 26 to 28. Tickets ($10 to $20) are available at Coast Union High School and the Cambria Chamber of Commerce, 767 Main St. Call 927-3889 or www.cuhsdrama.comfor details.

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