When Arts in Motion presents “Seussical” at Pasco Middle School this weekend, the audience will recognize Dr. Seuss’ famous characters and stories that have entertained children for decades.
And they’ll also experience something that sets the play apart from many musicals: A lot more music.
“It is honestly, let’s say, 97 percent music,” said director Craig Hartfield. “There’s very few lines, and even those lines are in verse, because it is Seuss.”
Having that many musical numbers presents challenges from a production standpoint.
But Hartfield brings extensive experience to the job.
He has been directing acting for decades and has directed “Seussical” before, but this is his first play with Arts in Motion.
And, as a play for Arts In Motion — a local nonprofit dedicated to cultivating arts education and youth theater — all the characters are played by actors ranging in age between 5 and 18 years.
In “Seussical,” the age of the average performer is just over 10.
The actors also have a little extra work, too.
“Seussical” is double-casted, meaning the major roles are played by more than one actor. Most actors also perform in more than one role.
That format requires a tight production with actors knowing what role to play and where to be at any given moment,
Hartfield isn’t worried.
He’s happy with his cast and the support he’s received from Arts in Motion.
“They’re very organized. It’s very important to them that there’s a strong level of support for me and the kids in the show,” Hartfield said about Arts in Motion.
Having multiple roles gives the cast a chance to get in a lot of work, rather than learning one character’s lines and waiting around for their speaking role.
Some actors will be speaking or singing as one character and then dancing as another.
When it comes to “Seussical,” there are many moving parts.
The play has nearly 50 cast members playing more than two dozen important roles.
It’s reassuring that the children are all interested in theater and really want to be there, Hartfield said.
The training they get by being in Arts in Motion productions also makes his job easier, he added.
“They’re well-trained. They know what they’re supposed to be doing,” Hartfield said.
Melanie Kender, a senior at Pasco High School, definitely knows what she’s doing. In six years with Arts in Motion, she’s performed in around a dozen productions, and now she’s a Cat In The Hat and a Wickersham Brother in “Seussical.”
As an experienced performer, Kender helps the younger actors get comfortable with the ins and outs of community theater.
“The training that we get through Arts in Motion, we carry on with it, and we grow with it,” Kender said.
That includes beyond high school.
Kender plans to pursue theater opportunities at Pasco-Hernando State College.
For now, she’s getting into her roles.
For the Cat In The Hat, that meant reading the books and watching clips of Mike Myers’ take on the character in the 2003 film.
Kender also spends hours each week rehearsing with the cast at The Alliance Church of Zephyrhills, and will start five-hour days as the show draws near.
The end result should be a unique take on the character, especially if people are expecting a male in the role.
“It’s a whole other level of trying to accomplish this character,” Kender said. “I’m going to be the best Cat I can be.”
Hartfield is expecting all the actors to be at their best, and for the audience to enjoy the unusual take on stories they already know.
Instead of a simple retelling, “Seussical” blends several stories together, providing familiarity and something fresh for those who already love Dr. Seuss.
“The storylines are all in there, but no entire story is told. It’s not about telling one story. It’s about taking all these stories and mixing them into this one musical,” Hartfield said.
Showtimes are May 22 and May 23 at 7:30 p.m., with matinees on May 23 and May 24 at 3 p.m. Pasco Middle School is located at 13925 14th St., in Dade City. Tickets are $15 for adults, $12 for seniors and $7 for students.
For more information, visit ArtsInMotionPasco.org.
Published May 20, 2015