Theater-goers packed Orange Park Community Theater on Sunday, September 16th for a rousing rendition of Seussical the Musical, the first production of the theater’s 49th season. Whimsical and entertaining, Seussical inspired a heartfelt standing ovation and lifted the spirits of young and old alike.
Directed by Sara Green, the musical runs from August 31-September 30th. The show features local talent and took about 2 ½ months of dedicated work to prepare for opening. “This show has had me excited,” Green says, “It’s such a fabulous group of people to work with and I just love them.”
Seussical the Musical is a magical tale written by Stephan Flaherty and Lynn Ahrens, combining the best of Dr. Seuss’ stories and characters into one hilarious musical masterpiece. The Cat in the Hat charismatically narrates the story of Horton the elephant, who discovers an invisible world on a spec of dust and places it on a clover for safekeeping. This microscopic world is home to Whoville. Among the residents are the mayor, his wife, and their young son, JoJo. JoJo has a problem. He thinks too much. This causes issues with his teacher and parents and the young boy finds himself sent away to a military academy under the care of the enigmatic General Schmitz.
Kindhearted Horton must fight to keep Whoville safe. He faces many threats, including Sour Kanga and the Wickersham Ensemble. Mockery, kidnapping, time in the circus, and even a trial that condemns him to the asylum for the criminally insane threatens to put an end to Horton’s quest. But he refuses to give up, fighting fiercely for those too small to protect themselves and trying desperately to convince his naysayers that something wonderful can exist even if they cannot see it with their own eyes, refraining time and again, “A person’s a person, no matter how small.”
In the end, Whoville is saved by the smallest of them all. It’s up to young JoJo to think outside the box and make his people heard or face certain death. Horton and JoJo are both redeemed and the power of friendship, acceptance, family, faith, and community reign supreme.
The multi-generational, local cast makes this musical raw and irresistible. One simply cannot help standing and cheering the hard work, passion, and determination poured into its production.
Horton the amiable pachyderm is played by Craig Wickless. JoJo was played by Alexander White at Sunday’s performance.
Though the script largely follows the plotline of Seuss classic Horton Hears a Who, plenty of unexpected guests pop in along the way.
Irresponsible party girl Mayzie La Bird causes drama and discord, leaving Horton to watch over her unwanted egg while she flies the coop for a sunny vacation. Mayzie is played by Denise Fernandez, who has performed in both community and professional theater productions in New Jersey and New York. This is her second show at OPCT.
Gertrude McFuzz adds a comedic love story to the plot. Played by Morgan Perry, Gertrude embarks on a doomed though hilarious quest for a bigger-better tail in an attempt to attract Horton’s attention. This is Perry’s debut performance at OPCT.
The Grinch Who stole Christmas makes several appearances. Even Thing One and Thing Two get involved in the mix. Yet the undoubted star of the show is the charming Cat in the Hat himself, played by local actor Eric Yarham. He’s appeared in Floyd Collins, A New Brain, and City of Angels.
Seussical the Musical is spunky and hilarious. This battle of the underdogs will engage and delight the entire family. With musical direction by Michelle Munley and choreography by Jodie Jernigan, the production will have you dancing in your seat. It’s great for the young and young at heart alike.
Performances will continue Fri/Sat (8 pm) and Sunday (3pm) at Orange Park Community Theater through September 23rd, followed by two benefit performances at San Jose Preparatory Academy in Mandarin September 29-30 (Sat 8 pm, Sun 3 pm). General reservations cost $25 and student pricing is available ($10). Green encourages Ne Floridians to get out there and see what their community theater has to offer, “I fell in love with theater because my parents brought me.”
It may be small and cozy, but Orange Park Community Theater has a lot to offer. The community is invited to come out for upcoming performance series Gamechangers: Women Through Music History October 5-7, a spooky thriller called The Uninvited (pg-13) October 19-Nov 4, or Miracle on 34th Street this December. Student workshops are available for students interested in musical theater as well.