Warren Gerds/Critic at Large: Review: ‘Seussical Jr.' colorful in Marinette

University of Wisconsin-Marinette Children's Theatre

MARINETTE, Wis. - The production of “Seussical Jr.” certainly is vivid as done by University of Wisconsin-Marinette Children’s Theatre.

Some of the youngsters have spectacular face make-up, like the youth who plays The Cat in the Hat (black and white, and fur-like at the edges), girls who are the Bird Girls (boldly colored dresses that match the colors of their painted-on party masks and lipstick), the rascally/monkey-like Wickershams (tan tones on white) and the impish Thing 1 and Thing 2 (white face skin and purple/reddish lips under garish shock-type wigs).

When the whole entourage of the cast – dressed as an array of Dr. Seuss characters – sings and dances in front of strongly colored Dr. Seuss-like illustrated backdrops, it’s quite festive for the eye.

Two sets of performances are taking place in Herbert L. Williams Theatre on campus. All told, there will be four daytime performances for area schoolchildren, who are bused to the theater, and six for the general public.

“Seussical Jr.” is family fare. The cast is made up of youngsters from elementary to high school level. The asset of that is the production is of the original tone of Dr. Seuss – the one parents and grandparents have when reading the marvelously skipping and play-filled words to little ones.

The show “Seussical” comes in different versions. The adult version – the Broadway version – includes a bit of adult thorniness. The youth version – the “Jr.” version – is closer to the intent of creator Dr. Seuss (Theodore Geisel).

Dr. Seuss wrote fanciful books that are aimed at children and yet filled with imagination, thought, cleverness, meaning and humor that warm the way for adults. The musical is a set of the stories, most having an important moral.

One story nurtures thinking; the character Jojo gets in trouble for it but is rewarded in the end. One story tells to be careful what you wish for; the bird character Gertrude gets the tail she desires, though in XXXXXXXL size. One song looks to the cosmos and has characters thinking about being a speck in the vastness of the universe; it’s the story of the minute Whos. A big moral of a story (and the whole musical) revolves around the line, “A person’s a person no matter how small”; Horton the elephant wisely repeats that. The reference may seem to be about size, but the implication is a person is a person, period, so respect any differences from yourself.

Basically, the production of “Seussical Jr.” is an enjoyable family experience. It’s some Dr. Seuss stories done up large.

Importantly, in the Marinette-Menominee-Peshtigo area, teachers look to UW-Marinette as a resource for playgoing as an experience on multiple levels. Being something out of the classroom adds a layer of excitement to the learning, which not only involves the morals of the stories but the can-do element of the performers – the look-what-youngsters-can-achieve thing.

I saw the first daytime performance Thursday morning as the oldest kid in the audience – and soaked in the atmosphere of a theater charged with fresh, young energy and interest.

***

Creative: Based on the works of Dr. Seuss; book – Lynn Ahrens, Stephen Flaherty; music – Stephen Flaherty; lyrics – Lynn Ahrens; conception – Lynn Ahrens, Stephen Flaherty, Eric Idle; music supervision, adaptation, production – Bryan Louiselle; director/music director – Brittany Welch; technical director – Dave Hendrick; choreographer – Heather Olsen; sound, lighting, stage design – Nick Tellez; stage manager – Marie Arnold; costume design – Dana Sulk

Cast: Horton – Jonah Zuehls; Gertude – Ashley Burley; Jojo – Alissa Mullins; Cat in the Hat – Keaton Bartz; Mr. Mayor – Wyatt Evancheck; Mrs. Mayor – Kendra Krouth; Mayzie – Hannah Fields; Sour Kangaroo – Avery Katzbeck; Young Kangaroo – Emma Lesperance; Thing 1 – Andrea LeBoeuf; Thing 2 – Connor Whisler; Vlad Vladikoff/Jungle Animal – Logan Ayers; Grinch – Alex Meyers; Yertle/Bird Girl – Lydia LeBoeuf; Wickershams – Henry Zuehls, Marin Fernandez, Isabel Kuntz, Gabe Behrendt, Kaylee Behrendt; Bird Girls – Isabel Rowell, Galen Hodlofski, Emily Halfmann, Hannah Behrendt, Kylie Hardy, Maggie Fernandez, Lydia LeBoeuf; Whos – Bryeli Smith, Trent VanDeWalle, Emma Lesperance, Adrian Kuntz, Alaina Archambault, Kate Peters, Rae Leeann Black, Andrew Halfmann, Anna Grandaw, Andie Rasmussen, Madelyn Mosey, Laurana Mines; Jungle Animals – Sydney Ebsch, Charlie Rowell, Lauren Halfmann, Madalyn Zelm, Lily Clark, Jasmine Slawinski, Landon Delfosse, Jacob Johnson, Jasmine Slawinski, Dylan Grandaw, Eddie Dewitt, Cullen Wilke

Cast by school: Coleman Elementary  – Adrian Kuntz, Isabel Kuntz, Cullen Wilke; Garfield ElementaryGabe Behrendt; HomeschoolEddie Dewitt; Saint John Paul II Catholic Academy – Rae Leeann Black, Lily Clark; Marinette HighHannah Behrendt, Ashley Burley, Hannah Fields, Kylie Hardy, Avery Katzbeck, Kendra Krouth; Marinette MiddleKeaton Bartz, Kaylee Behrendt, Wyatt Evancheck, Anna Grandaw, Dylan Grandaw, Charles Rowell, Connor Whisler; Menominee – Blesch Intermediate Logan Ayers, Andrea LeBoeuf, Alex Meyers, Madalyn Zelm, Henry Zuehls; Menominee – Central Elementary Madalyn Mosey; Menominee HighJacob Johnson; Menominee Junior HighLydia LeBoeuf, Jonah Zuehls; Merryman ElementaryEmma Lesperance; Park ElementaryAndie Rasmussen; Peshtigo Elementary Andrew Halfmann, Alaina Archambault, Marin Fernandez, Laurana Mines, Alissa Mullins, Trent VanDenWalle, Jasmine Slawinski; Peshtigo Middle/HighEmily Halfmann, Maggie Fernandez, Lauren Halfmann; St. Thomas Aquinas AcademyKate Peters, Isabel Rowell, Bryeli Smith; Stephenson Area Public SchoolsSydney Ebsch; Wausaukee Elementary Landon Delfosse; Wisconsin Virtual AcademyGalen Hodlofski

Running time: 82 minutes

Remaining performances (public): 7 p.m. Oct. 13, 15, 20, 21; 2 p.m. Oct. 15, 22

Info: marinette.uwc.edu/community/continuing-ed/theatre

***

Songs (recorded soundtrack)

“Oh, the Thinks You Can Think!” – Cat, Jojo, Horton, Mr. Mayor, Mrs. Mayor, Gertrude, Mayzie, Sour Kangaroo, The Wickershams and Company
“Horton Hears a Who” – Horton, Bird Girls, Cat, Jojo, Mr. Mayor and Jungle Citizens
“Biggest Blame Fool” – Sour Kangaroo, Young Kangaroo, Horton, Wickersham Brothers, Bird Girls, The Cat, Gertrude, Mayzie and Jungle Citizens
“Biggest Blame Playoff” / “Gertrude McFuzz” – Gertrude, Wickersham Brothers, Sour Kangaroo, The Cat, Mr. Mayor and Jungle Citizens
“Here on Who” – Mr. Mayor, Mrs. Mayor, Jojo, Horton and The Who's
“Meet Jojo the Who” – Mr. Mayor and Mrs. Mayor
“How to Raise a Child” – Mr. Mayor and Mrs. Mayor
“Oh, The Thinks You Can Think!” (Reprise) – The Cat and Jojo
“It’s Possible” (Pt. 1) – Jojo, The Cat and Fish
“It’s Possible” (Pt. 2) – Jojo, The Cat and Fish
“Alone in the Universe” – Horton and Jojo
“The One Feather Tail of Miss Gertrude McFuzz” / “Amazing Mayzie” – Gertrude, Mayzie and Bird Girls

“Amazing Gertrude” (Pt. 1) – Gertrude
“Amazing Gertrude” (Pt. 2) – Gertrude, The Cat and Bird Girls
“Monkey Around” / “Chasing the Whos” – The Wickershams, Sour Kangaroo, The Cat, Horton, Bird Girls, Jungle Citizens and Whos
“Notice Me, Horton” – Gertrude and Horton
“How Lucky You Are” – Mayzie and The Cat
“Mayzie’s Exit” / “Horton Sits on the Egg” / “Dilemma” / “Hunters” – Horton, Gertrude and Bird Girls
“Egg, Nest, and Tree” – Sour Kangaroo, Horton, Hunters, Bird Girls and Jungle Citizens
“Sold” / “Mayzie in Palm Beach” – Sour Kangaroo, Horton, Bird Girls, Jungle Citizens, Mayzie and The Cat

“Mayzie at the Circus” – Mayzie
“Amazing Horton” – Mayzie and Horton
“Alone in the Universe” (Reprise 1) – Horton
“Solla Sollew” – Horton, Mr. Mayor, Mrs. Mayor, Jojo and Circus Animals
“Gertrude/Espionage” (Pt. 1) – Gertrude
“Gertrude/Espionage” (Pt. 2) – Gertrude and Horton
“All for You” – Gertrude, Bird Girls and The Cat
“The Whos Return” / “The People Versus Horton the Elephant” (Pt. 1) – Horton, Mr. Mayor, Mrs. Mayor, Jojo, Gertrude, Sour Kangaroo, The Wickershams, The Cat, Yertle the Turtle, Bird Girls and Courtroom
“The People Versus Horton the Elephant” (Pt. 2) – Horton, Yertle the Turtle, The Cat, The Wickershams, Bird Girls, Sour Kangaroo, Mr. Mayor, Mrs. Mayor, Jojo, The Whos and Courtroom
“YOPP!” – Sour Kangaroo, Young Kangaroo, The Cat, Mr. Mayor and Mrs. Mayor
“Alone in the Universe” (Reprise 2) – Horton, Gertrude, The Cat and Jojo
“Oh, the Thinks You Can Think!” (Finale) – Jojo and Full Company
“Green Eggs and Ham” (Finale Bows) – Full Company

THE VENUE: The 362-seat Herbert L. Williams Theatre is located in the Fine Arts Building of the University of Wisconsin-Marinette. The facility was built in 1968. Central in the theater is a thrust stage, a half octagon that the audience surrounds. The theater includes brick walls on both sides of the stage and a white ceiling of half circles radiating from the stage, with the area above the stage exposed for the guts of the lighting grid. Three steps lead to the stage, which today bears the name The Nancy A. Gehrke Stage. The design of the stage was one of the first of its kind in the region. The theater feels spacious.

THE PEOPLE: Herbert L. Williams was professor of communication arts and artistic director of Theatre on the Bay with a lively and engaging personality. He loved to act, but mostly he loved to direct. He retired after 30 years in May 1996 and continued to direct and perform in Green Bay and the Fox Cities. He may have directed more plays than anyone in the region. Herb Williams died in 2014 in Green Bay at age 79. A memorial service was held in the theater that bears his name. Nancy A. Gehrke acted for 40 years on the stage named for her. Today, painting is a primary passion.

Contact me at warren.gerds@wearegreenbay.com. Watch for my on-air Critic at Large editions on WFRV-TV at 6:20 a.m. Sundays. My new books, “Three Miles Past Lost and in the Pickers” and “Nickolaus and Olive – a naïve opera (in words),” are available online and in Green Bay at Neville Public Museum, Bosse’s and The Reader’s Loft.


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