“Seussical the Musical” sparks imagination at BRHS

IMAGINATION: Big Rapids High School's "Seussical the Musical" cast members Mollie Webster, who plays Mrs. Mayor, and Ricky Swinson, who plays Mr. Mayor, rehearse a song alongside other actors. (Pioneer photo/Cortney Erndt)

IMAGINATION: Big Rapids High School’s “Seussical the Musical” cast members Mollie Webster, who plays Mrs. Mayor, and Ricky Swinson, who plays Mr. Mayor, rehearse a song alongside other actors. (Pioneer photo/Cortney Erndt)

PREPARATION: Kendra Stiles, makeup and costumes crew member, puts eyeliner on Victor Sawicki before dress rehearsal. Sawicki plays "JoJo" in Big Rapids High School's "Seussical the Musical" this weekend. (Pioneer photo/Cortney Erndt)

PREPARATION: Kendra Stiles, makeup and costumes crew member, puts eyeliner on Victor Sawicki before dress rehearsal. Sawicki plays “JoJo” in Big Rapids High School’s “Seussical the Musical” this weekend. (Pioneer photo/Cortney Erndt)

BIG RAPIDS – Imagination will abound at Big Rapids Public Schools this weekend. Thursday evening, the district kicked off “Seussical the Musical,” the much-anticipated performance put on by the high school’s drama classes.

“Out of the 20 or more musicals I’ve directed, this is among the most challenging because of all of the demands,” said Lori Hathaway, artistic director and teacher at Big Rapids High School. “These students have worked so incredibly hard in every aspect. It would be really nice to have a full house each night.”

Students will offer another show tonight, Friday, Nov. 14, at 7:30 p.m. and on Saturday at 2:30 p.m. All performances are in the high school’s auditorium.

Audience members, young and old, will enjoy learning good life lessons, Hathaway said.

“It’s very much full of a variety of great messages,” said Lori Hathaway, artistic director and teacher at Big Rapids High School. “It’ll keep any age entertained. That’s the magic of Dr. Seuss. His books appear simple if you just look at them, but there’s a deeper meaning behind almost everything.”

The cast and crew have been rehearsing since Sept. 15.

“I grew up reading all of the Dr. Suess books,” said AJ Stephens, a 12th grade student who is the president of drama and plays Gertrude. “Watching the books come to life on stage and hearing all of the quotes that you remember is a lot of fun because it brings back memories of learning how to read.”

Aidan Johansen, a 12th grade student who plays the General and a Wickersham, said singing was the most challenging part of the rehearsal process.

“Acting is one thing, but to sing, be someone you’re not, match pitch and stay on time with the band is so much work,” Johansen said. “There is a lot of movement. When the Wickershams are done rehearsing, we are so tired. Our sweatshirts get hot. We’re just dead; it’s exhausting.”

The drama classes have been trying to get more students involved over the past two years. After many talented 12th grade students graduated, newcomers have had to take on important roles.

“The rehearsal process started off pretty rough,” Stephens said. “This year, we have a lot of freshman, and we had to put this together with middle school and elementary school children. It was difficult in the beginning, but after we had lots of pep talks, kids strived to make the show really good.”

Several elementary and middle school students also are taking part in the performance. Hathaway suggests that parents in the community bring their children to the shows to not only support their classmates, but to be entertained by a child-friendly production.

“Working with the younger kids is great,” Johansen said. “They actually really want to be here.”

The easiest part of the rehearsal process was memorizing the script, Stephens said. Rather than spending the majority of rehearsals memorizing lines, students worked on musical numbers instead.

“In most musicals, there are a couple songs and then it moves to big scenes where it’s just acting,” Stephens said. “In this musical, we have only about two lines after each song.”

The audience will most enjoy the set, Stephens said.

“We have fun, metaphoric costumes,” she said. “It’s a different perspective than what the audience thinks the characters are.”

For example, the Grinch will be dressed like homeless person, instead of the green character that is normally portrayed in Dr. Seuss movies.

“Out of all the people in our school, the people in drama are some of the nicest people,” Johansen said.

“This drama class is the one thing I look forward to every single day,” Stephens added.

Aside from the casts’ performances in Big Rapids, the production will travel to Saginaw Valley State University in December, where they will perform at the Michigan Education State Theatre Festival. BRHS’ production was selected to be one of three high schools that perform at the festival.

The cast and crew asks audience members to put away all cellphones and electronic devices during the show. Although parents and guests may want to take photos of students, the use of cameras and other recording devices is prohibited due to copyright laws.

ENTERTAINERS: Big Rapids High School's "Seussical the Musical" cast members Justin Gray, Elina Ulmer, Jonatha McAdams, Julie Farrier and Heather Wendlowsky rehearse in the school's auditorium. (Pioneer photo/Cortney Erndt)

ENTERTAINERS: Big Rapids High School’s “Seussical the Musical” cast members Justin Gray, Elina Ulmer, Jonatha McAdams, Julie Farrier and Heather Wendlowsky rehearse in the school’s auditorium. (Pioneer photo/Cortney Erndt)

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