Director’s Cut: Neenah High School’s Seussical the Musical (Oct. 9-13)

High School Theater

NEENAH, Wis. (WFRV) – Neenah High School Players are excited to present Seussical the Musical! The show opens on October 9 and runs through October 13.

From Director Kathleen McCurdy, this is what you need to know before entering the theater!

For ticketing visit www.rocketplayers.com

What should audiences know about your production?

While Seussical is appropriate for all ages, it is definitely not children’s theatre.

Dr. Seuss inspired characters and a nod to familiar rhyming patterns lend themselves to a musical with fantastic music in various styles and very relevant themes.

It is fast-paced fun, but has a lot of heart and will allow the audience to relate to the characters.

Why did you select this musical? What goals do you hope to accomplish with this particular show?

We consider several things when selecting a musical. First is how we can build onto a learning opportunity or challenge from the past year. Secondly, we consider what we performed the previous three years in order to ensure we are exposing students to a variety of different musical styles, themes, time periods and character journeys in their four years at Neenah High School. Finally, we look at what we feel would be exciting and executable as a production team for that particular year.

We selected Seussical this year because it provides a nice contrast from the past few years. We also wanted to select something that would appeal to all ages after doing Chicago last year.

Additionally, we wanted to explore immersive theatre a bit more and this show allowed a lot of creativity in terms of set design and staging. And, quite honestly, the music is fantastic, fun, and complex enough to really stretch our students.

Are there any unique production elements in your show?

We are very excited about our set and thrilled to have NHS Alum and current UWSP Junior, Evan Johnson take lead on the design.

Our production theme for Seussical is “Anything’s Possible” and we used that as a jumping-off point in all elements of the production. We very much want the audience to feel like they are part of the production, so we are using some non-traditional performance spaces within the auditorium to engage them in different ways.

We also used the playground as our inspiration because when children play and use their imaginations, anything is possible. In life, the same slide and jungle gym could become a pirate ship or desert pyramid when kids pretend on a playground. So, it was important to us to incorporate slides and swings into the set design.

We also went with a less literal interpretation of the characters. Instead of dressing them in animal costumes, we want the audience to see themselves in the characters, as if they’re part of the story.

How do you engage your school and/or your community in your productions?

This year we directed the marketing of our production directly in the community. Here are just some of the ways this was done:

1) Our marketing team (parent/student) talked directly to dozens of businesses about using their business to help promote the show. We, in total, have close to 100 businesses in the city of Neenah who have helped us promote the show. This was done by asking them to promote the musical with their marquee or electric signs. In downtown Neenah, we had stores decorate their storefront in Dr. Seuss or Seussical colors and characters to draw the attention of the community. We also have restaurants and food businesses highlight an item on the menu with a Seussical theme. For example, Pappa’s Café is featuring a (Not) Green Eggs and Ham Breakfast!

2) The marketing team also received donations from parents and printed off 50-yard signs that were strategically placed in high traffic locations many of which were on business property.

3) Over 500 posters were hung in community-minded locations and businesses

4) Because the musical is Seussical, we also had a reading day at the local Neenah Library where they read Dr. Seuss Books, had a display set up in the library and even a Dr. Seuss craft day where they made dust specks similar to what you will see Horton carrying during the show

5) The marketing committee was also at the Grand Re-opening of Washington Park where they debuted their splash pads and handicapped friendly field. We were there handing out dust specks and cards promoting the musical

6) We took part in the Neenah homecoming parade handing out information on the musical while the students were on the parade floats

7) We had pictures taken with the City of Neenah Police and Fire Department and the Mayor was dressed in a Cat in the Hat Costume. All were posted on Facebook

8) The mayor also promoted the show by wearing the cat in the hat costume at street corners in the morning to bring attention to the show

9) The cast was interviewed on local radio stations to promote the show.

10) We listed our show is dozens of community calendars

11) We currently have over 11,000 views on our Facebook page: Seussical Fun Neenah. Most of the activities were posted on our page

12) We also organized a helicopter ping pong drop that included 500 prizes from local businesses and organizations. Unfortunately, the weather spoiled the drop but we did play Horton Hears a Who on the big screen at the football field to draw attention to the show.

What are the benefits of students participating in high school theater and educational programs like Center Stage?

Our students have experienced so many positive things from our school’s participation in Center Stage.

The opportunity to participate in workshops on topics that we don’t often cover curricularly is priceless. Being exposed to current theatre professionals is relevant and exciting to our students. And through those workshops and the Showcase in May, our students are able to meet and become friends with students from other area High Schools with similar interests.

As opposed to a competitive setting, they have found Center Stage to be supportive and celebratory and it helps them to see that theatre can open doors in the real world through creativity and connection.

Additionally, we had feedback from adjudicators suggesting that we try to incorporate more of the audience interaction we touched on last year. Without that “challenge”, I’m not sure we would have taken the risks that we have in this production. To have the support and feedback from area theatre professionals to grow from each year is so helpful in an educational environment.

We are so fortunate to be part of the program.

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