Monkeying around in the Jungle of Noor
Birds, monkeys, an elephant and a cat as well as an entire town of very tiny people are taking over the Key City Theatre this week. ‘Seussical the Musical’ is the latest production of Mount Baker Secondary School and after tackling the epic drama ‘Miss Saigon’ last school year, this show will be funny entertainment for the whole family.
Music teacher Evan Bueckert emphasizes that the fact it is a family show does not necessarily make it easier. “Comedy is harder than drama a lot of the times,” he says. What makes ‘Seussical’ particularly challenging is the fact that lines have to be said at the perfect time so the musical phrase can create the right comic sound effects.
The words have to also be said fluid enough that the audience does not notice the timing and the performance blends in rather than being stiff. If people are noticing the music too much it is not a good thing, Bueckert feels.
Bueckert has once again assembled a small and mobile band to accompany the actors on stage. Many of them have played in Baker productions before and Bueckert says there is a reason he likes drawing on these musicians. “They’re dependable and enjoyable to work with [...] and they love playing with us.”
The experienced musicians, Bueckert explains, can play cohesively almost without him, so he can focus on the things happening on stage and help the actors hit their notes. “If we find ourselves in terrible trouble,” Bueckert points out, “this band can fake their way and they can intuitively get themselves out of trouble.”
For the students in the band - and Bueckert emphasizes there are always some who are good enough to get in - it is great professional development, including the goofing around. The musical in ‘Seussical’ is a mix from great blues, jazz, funk and Broadway show music and people can expect to be blown away by the performances of the student actors.
Putting on a show like ‘Seussical’ requires a collaboration between artists, believes drama teacher Rod Osiowy. For him, the key is to create and all around framework of what the picture as a whole looks like, while giving the individual groups - such as actors, musicians, lighting and sound technicians, choreographers, visual artists and costumers - independence to create their own interpretations. This ensures that kids enjoy the process and put forward their best effort, Osiowy says.
Over 120 people are directly involved in putting the show on, either as actors, musicians or backstage crew and Osiowy states it is a miracle to see them all come together every night to perform. The Cat in the Hat is one of the central characters of the show. Osiowy says this mischief maker is played by Australian exchange student and multi-talented performer Zach Price. “He’s like the Master of Ceremonies for the show and weaves the magic around the character of JoJo.”
JoJo experiences all this magic as the Cat spins it and follows him through the show. The role has been split between two girls, Emily Bohmer and Jade Duchscherer. Osiowy explains this is partly because they wanted to make it easier on the girls and partly because they really couldn’t chose between the two.
A familiar actor is back in the role of Horton the Elephant. “Horton’s the nicest guy in the world, played by Will Grossman who played the most evil character in the last show, ‘Miss Saigon’”, Osiowy points out. Amy Morrison is back as Gertrude McFuzz, Orrin Hawke plays the Mayor of Whoville, Caitlin McCaughey is Mrs. Mayor and Heidi Nielson and Tessa Charlton team up as the Sour Kangaroo and Young Kangaroo.
Visually the play was wide open for interpretation, Osiowy continues. He credits View Riddell for the set design as well as the poster. He says the Grade 11 student learned how to draw like Dr. Seuss and really brought his style to the stage. Brienna Smith was in charge of the choreography.
“Seussical’ premiers tonight at the Key City Theatre. There will also be evening performances Thursday to Saturday and the show closes with a matinee on Sunday. Tickets are available at Max’s Place on Victoria and at the door.