‘Seussical’ Stagemakers at the J
Having faith in one’s friends, making an effort to be unique and fighting for what you believe in transpires beautifully in the musical “Seussical Jr.” performed recently at the JCC of the Lehigh Valley, 702 N. 22 St., Allentown.
Based on characters created by children’s writer and author Dr. Seuss, “Seussical Jr.” creates a story of courage and loyalty.
The musical was written by Stephen Ahrens and Lynn Flaherty.
The Cat in the Hat narrates the story of Horton the Elephant, who finds a speck of dust that is home to a mini group of people called the Whos.
Horton must protect the Whos while at the same time guard an abandoned egg left in his care. Although Horton is mocked and almost put on trial for insanity, his fearless neighbor Gertrude McFuzz never loses faith in him.
“Seussical is a fun, whimsical show and I have enjoyed trying to come up with choreography that fits the show’s style,” choreographer Cheryl Moritz said. “Some of it may not be as typically ‘dancy’ as what I might normally do but hopefully I have created some imaginative and light-hearted choreography that works well with the piece.
“Although the 4- and 5-year-olds in the show did not pick up the dance numbers as quickly as the older kids, they are adorable and a vital part of our production.
“I have enjoyed trying to showcase the best of their abilities.”
Music director Adam Conti said the entire cast devoted a great deal of time and effort to make the show special.
“The cast gave their all at every rehearsal and it was a pleasure being part of the process. The cast has grown so much and the confidence in their singing has skyrocketed.”
Jillian Petrie, of Alburtis, played The Cat in the Hat. She is a student at Lower Macungie Middle School and is no stranger to performing on stage. This is her 14th show with Stagemakers at the J.
“My character is very quirky,” Petrie said. “He sometimes just pops into the story when no one is looking, plays various roles: a doctor, a marshal and a news reporter.
“I like playing the cat because he narrates the story. This role has also allowed me to step out of my comfort zone, which was most challenging. All of the other characters get to be in the story, but I am the one telling it.”
Reilly Leisher, of Fogelsville, played Horton. She is a student at Northwestern Lehigh Middle School and has been acting since she was five.
“Most people do not notice Horton is there except for Gertrude McFuzz, and once he starts getting attention, he realizes that is not what he wanted,” Leisher said. “Horton cares so much for others and has so much to say, but just does not seem to know how.
“His character’s insecurity and reservations took some adjusting to.”
Katie Coughlin, of Whitehall, played Jojo. She is a student at Whitehall-Coplay Middle School.
“Seussical Jr.” is her first performance with Stagemakers at the J.
“Jojo is a curious little boy who gets into trouble with his elaborate thought process,” Coughlin said. “I appreciate his desire to never stop thinking because it makes him unique.
“The most challenging part of the show for me was the amount of choreography. It was not hard to learn, there was just a lot of it.”
Kelly McMahan, of Upper Macungie, is a student at Parkland High School. She played Gertrude McFuzz.
“Gertrude is a very unique character,” McMahan said. “She is loyal and friendly, yet also insecure. She always has faith in the character Horton.
“I love Gertrude’s songs in the show and with this role I can add some comedy.”
Jada Pinsley, of Allentown, played Mayzie La Bird.
A student at Parkland High School, she has been performing on stage since she was in third grade. “Seussical Jr.” is her 14th show with Stagemakers at the J.
“Mayzie La Bird is insecure in many ways but hides it by acting self-centered and putting others down,” Pinsley said. “I love playing this role because Mayzie is a different kind of character than I am used to.”
Director Meg Stefanowicz said it has been a lovely debut working with everyone. This is her first time working with Stagemakers at the J.
“Seussical is an amalgamation of about 12 of Dr. Seuss’ children’s books, focusing mainly on the arc of Horton the Elephant and a young ‘Who’ named Jojo,” Stefanowicz said. “Horton struggles to convince his community of the existence of the town Whoville. Through many trials and tribulations, Horton’s determination to stand up for those in need, along with Jojo’s ingenuity, eventually turns the minds of those who did not believe him, saving the “Whos’ lives.”
Stefanowicz is exceptionally proud of her cast.
“I am particularly thrilled by their willingness to step out of their comfort zones to embody characters that live in a universe that is over the top and fantastical as Seuss. Comedy, specifically musical comedy, takes bravery and a strong sense of play.”