‘Seussical Jr.’ musical in Steamboat features local youths, opens Thursday | SteamboatToday.com

‘Seussical Jr.’ musical in Steamboat features local youths, opens Thursday

Sara Pugh, playing Gertrude McFuzz, sings to Christian Weeden's Cat in the Hat character during a dress rehearsal for "Seussical Jr.," a Steamboat Players production that is set to open Thursday in the Steamboat Springs High School auditorium. For the full story, see page 4.

Joel Reichenberger

Josh Heald, who plays Horton in the Steamboat Players' production of "Seussical Jr.," sings about the Who he claims to hear. The musical opens Thursday night at the Steamboat Springs High School auditorium.Joel ReichenbergerLauren Peterson, right, leads "The Bird Girls" in a song during a dress rehearsal for the musical "Seussical Jr.," which opens Thursday in Steamboat Springs.Joel Reichenberger

— Several Dr. Seuss books were scattered around the stage of the Steamboat Springs High School auditorium Thursday night.

They were hanging out of backpacks and out of the hands of 15 young performers as they rehearsed their summer musical, "Seussical Jr." But the books weren't scripts. The youths used the books for character inspiration, to read to each other between scenes and as props in the zany, colorful production by the Steamboat Players.

"It's really fun to do," said Josh Heald, 14, who plays Horton the elephant, resting between songs at Thursday's rehearsal. "It's a whole bunch of great music, and everyone gets along super well. I think it's going to be a great production with the combination of voices."

The show, based on the works of writer Theodor Seuss Geisel, runs at 7 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Aug. 14 in the Steamboat Springs High School auditorium. Tickets are $20 for preferred seating and $15 general seating for adults, and $15 preferred and $10 general seating for students.

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Director Michael Brumbaugh, who has directed several Players productions in the past five years, said he chose the whimsical, family-friendly show to offer another theater opportunity for middle- and high-school-aged children in the summer.

In working with children and adults, Brumbaugh said he has seen tremendous growth on the stage and off.

"I think the thing I see with kids as opposed to adults is that they learn to work well together," he said. "I think one of the things they learn is that it's a lot harder to do a production than they think.

"They discover, 'Oh, I need breath support' and 'I need to do the blocking on this scene,' that it involves the whole person — the whole being — all the time."

At Thursday's rehearsal, Sara Pugh, 16, settled into a chair surrounded by her co-stars, who were clad in funky-colored feather suits, kangaroo skins and monkey garb.

They were all out of breath from repeatedly rehearsing "Biggest Blame Fool," in which a kangaroo makes fun of Horton for his newfound invisible friends. After a few run-throughs, the voices, choreography and energy finally came together.

"It's a good experience to do over the summer," Pugh said about participating in the show. "It prepares you for school."

Pugh's character, Gertrude, is in love with Horton but only has one feather. (Gertrude is a bird.) She is the only one who believes in the bumbling elephant's powerful heart when every other creature doubts him.

"She's awkward and kind of like that middle school girl who likes a boy," Pugh said. "It's a feeling all girls go through."

In the world of Seuss, the children have learned to expect the unexpected and reserve judgment on things that might seem upside-down and backward, such as the tiny Whos, people who aren't visible to the naked eye.

The musical is loosely based on the Seuss book "Horton Hears a Who" but intertwines tales from "Cat in the Hat" and other classic Seuss stories.

The dialogue rhymes in typical Seuss cadence, and the vibrant physical acting and colorful costumes complement the contemporary music, which includes blues to rock.

Brumbaugh said his one goal is to make sure the audience never is bored.

"The main message is to keep promises and what does it mean to be a good friend," he said. "And we're trying to create interesting pictures of it on stage."

Cast member Lauren Peterson, who plays the egomaniacal Mayzie LaBird, said any audience will love the show because the "kids are just so cute."

But behind the visual pleasures, there are lessons to be learned from the nonsensical characters and the pure voices of children singing.

"It teaches us to be great thinkers," Peterson said. "It opened me up to a lot of things. I smile more now."