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Valley Journals

‘Seussical Jr’. Brings Children’s Books to Life

Jun 10, 2016 10:49AM ● By Kelly Cannon

Grace Zito, center, leads the bird girls in “Seussical Jr.”

By Kelly Cannon | kelly@mycityjournals.com


In a stunning display of visual and vocal feats, this year’s youth theater production of “Seussical Jr.” brought the stories of Dr. Seuss to life. Produced by the Sandy Arts Guild and performed at Mount Jordan Middle School, “Seussical Jr.” was a fast-paced extravaganza of musical and technical talent.

“Seussical Jr.” combines different elements from the children’s books of Dr. Seuss but focuses primarily on Horton the Elephant, played by Forrest Lorrigan. In the first act, Horton tries his best to protect the residents of Whoville, a tiny planet the size of a speck of dust. Because Horton is the only one who can hear them, he faces ridicule from the jungle animals, primarily Sour Kangaroo, played by Lizz Kartchner. In the second act, Horton is tricked into sitting on an egg laid by Mayzie La Bird, played by Grace Zito, while she goes off to Palm Springs. The play ends on a happy note with Horton finally noticing Gertrude McFuzz, played by Sabrina Wilhite, who is his neighbor and loves him, and together, they decide to raise the elephant bird who hatches from the egg together. The entire show is narrated by the Cat in the Hat, played by Matthew Maag.

The show was produced by the Sandy Arts Guild and directed by Stephanie Chatterton. This is Chatterton’s fifth youth theater production with the guild. The others include “Once on this Island Jr.,” “Peter Pan,” “Beauty and the Beast” and “The Little Mermaid.” Chatterton received the script in December and held auditions in February.

“We were looking for the best of the best. For some of the characters, we were looking for specific character traits. Horton, being an elephant, had to have a big presence,” Chatterton said. “But we also looked for kids who had that extra passion and sparkle.”

This year, the cast had a lot of new faces to the productions of the Sandy Arts Guild. According to Chatterton, half of the cast was new to productions produced by the guild and a fourth of them had never done musical theater before.

“The reputation the Sandy Arts Guild has for performances is really good,” Chatterton said. “Kids learn how fun it is and they come back year after year and they bring their friends.”

The cast consisted of children between the ages of five and 18, with the exception of Melia Thompson, the girl who played the elephant bird, who is only four. Chatterton said she has known Melia her entire life and personally selected her for the small role.

“I knew she’d give it her all, even if it’s a tiny moment that steals the whole show,” Chatterton said.

While directing children may seem daunting, Chatterton said children are her favorite people to work with.

“They are all so eager to please. You’ll give them a note about something and by next rehearsal, it’s memorized and perfect,” Chatterton said. “They put their absolute heart and soul into it.

Chatterton’s favorite part of the show is the musical number “Solla Sollew,” a more somber piece where the characters dream of an imaginary place where everything will be better.

“Our interpretation of the song was it was about coming home to family,” Chatterton said. “That can either be your nuclear family or your chosen family.”

The most difficult part of the play in technical terms was trying to create a separate space for the residents of Whoville in order to convey they were smaller than the rest of the cast.

“How do you get kids who are all the same size to look smaller?” Chatterton said.

This was achieved by having Whoville upstage and higher than the rest of the cast. Chatterton also attributed the success to the lighting designer Rick Martson.

Sixteen-year-old Sabrina Wilhite, who played Gertrude McFuzz, has been doing productions with the Sandy Arts Guild for the past five years. She had been in “Seussical Jr.” before, playing Sour Kangaroo at Brighton High School. She described Gertrude as quirky and kind of out there. She gained inspiration for Gertrude by finding interesting and weird traits she liked.

“I’d take that inspiration and I’d amplify it to suit her,” Sabrina said.

Seventeen-year-old Forrest Lorrigan, who plays Horton, has been doing productions with the guild for the past two years and said he has loved every one he’s done. Forrest said there wasn’t really any challenge when it came to putting on this production.

“It’s fun and it’s something I love to do,” Forrest said. “Everyone is involved in the same thing and you’re able to catch the characters of everyone on stage.”