Backstage conversations about NTC's 'Seussical'

By Joan Doggrell
Special to The Citizen

The set and costumes are complete, the choreography is in place, and all is set to bring “Seussical” to the Newnan Theatre Company stage. “Seussical,” a musical by Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty, opens at NTC at 8 p.m. on August 30.

The show debuted on Broadway in 2000 and has been a favorite with children and regional theaters ever since.

Dave Dorrell, director for “Seussical” and managing director for NTC spoke about the show after a recent rehearsal.

Why did you choose Seussical for your first performance of the new 2012-2013 season?

We wanted something that the whole family could come and see, and we wanted to choose something that incorporated children in the show. “Seussical” fit the bill.
This show takes several of the Dr. Seuss stories and weaves them together. “Horton Hears a Who” and “Horton Hatches the Egg” carry the main plot line, and several other Seuss tales are blended in as well.

Mayzie LaBird talks Horton into sitting on her egg and then disappears on vacation. Gertrude McFuzz is in love with Horton, who doesn’t notice her, and she thinks it’s because she has only a one-feather tail. So, on Mayzie’s advice, Gertrude goes to a doctor who gives her some pills, and she then grows a tail so long she can’t fly.

Was it difficult to cast all those crazy Seuss characters?

We made some creative choices when we cast the show. For The Cat in the Hat, we cast a woman – Krystal White, a tall, slender dancer. Izzy Robles is Jojo – a girl playing a boy (the character of Jojo comes from Seuss’s “The Butter Battle Book”). We’ve doubled the number of Wickersham brothers – the monkeys that come in and wreak havoc – from three to six, and have done the same with Mayzie’s Bird Girls.

Justin Jessel, who starred in “Epic Proportions” last spring, is playing Horton the Elephant. We also cast Ben Dell, who was Joseph in “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat,” as Mr. Mayor and newcomer Melinda Copeland is playing Mrs. Mayor. A familiar face to Newnan audiences, Laura Pretesi is playing Gertrude McFuzz. Laura has been seen in several recent NTC productions, including “Cinderella” and “Epic Proportions.”

One of the things I am enjoying about this production is having the chance to work with some old friends and introduce a large number of new people – many who have never been on stage before.

What is the music like?

I think people will definitely walk out of the theatre with these songs in their heads. Several musical themes occur throughout the show, and they are very memorable. Most of the music is very upbeat and the slower numbers are very sweet ballads. The Tony Award-winning team of Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty has a way with melodies and lyrics as you can see in their previous stage musicals – “Once on This Island,” “Ragtime,” “Lucky Stiff” – and their adaptations of Seuss’ words are certainly both clever and fun.

From what I can see of the set, it looks very two dimensional.

It’s intended to look like the illustrations in a Dr. Seuss book. We deliberately made it very flat. And I have had a lot of fun drawing all the elements in a “Seussian” style.

Emily Moore, choreographer for “Seussical,” also sat down for an interview.

You’ve never choreographed for NTC before. Tell us about your training and experience.

I have been dancing since I was three years old. I initially studied classical ballet, and traveled all around the country studying with wonderful names. Then I decided to go to college instead of pursuing a dance career, which I think helped me grow as a dancer. Recently I’ve been choreographing for kids, and now I teach for a musical theatre in Atlanta.

Does “Seussical” present any special choreography problems?

It’s very challenging choreographing for this many people. A lot of the big numbers have the whole cast on stage and they are a mix of ages from six on up. The adults, who know the choreography, were blocking out the smaller the kids! But Dave has been great about getting the kids up where they can be seen while putting the adults down in front. It’s all been a lot of fun.

“Seussical” is playing from August 30 through September 9 with evening performances at 8 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, and 3 p.m. matinees on both Sundays.
To make reservations and for show and audition dates and times, visit Newnan Theatre Company’s web site at newnantheatre.org. The theatre is located in historic downtown Newnan at 24 First Avenue.

If you have questions regarding the content of this or any show, email Artistic Director Paul Conroy at artistic-director@newnantheatre.org.