Familiarity isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
When it comes to Seussical, Stephen Flaherty and Lynn Ahrens’ musical adaptation of the fantastical world of beloved children’s author and illustrator Theodore ‘Ted’ Geisel – better known as Dr. Seuss – it’s a positive blessing.
FVGSS – A Musical Theatre Society will bring its production of the show to White Rock’s Playhouse April 25-May 5 and there’s little doubt that local audiences, from kids to seniors, will get a kick out of seeing some of their favourite Seuss personalities spring to life on the stage.
“It’s mostly the story of Horton Hatches the Egg, mixed in with Horton Hears A Who,” explained director Brad Dewar. “But (Flaherty and Ahrens) have managed to bring in all these different characters and perfectly integrate them into the story.”
That means that, in addition to Horton the elephant (Kaden Burgart), Who-child Jojo (Jessie Chan), intrepid Gertrude McFuzz (Emma Watson) and irresponsible Mayzie LaBird (Sydney Mason), there will also be appearances by such childhood icons as The Cat in the Hat (Lauren Trotzuk), the Lorax (Kiera Hodgins), The Grinch (Nicholas Kluftinger) and Yertle the Turtle (Vanessa Siemens).
Also on hand will be Sour Kangaroo (Jennifer Rose Garcia), General Genghis Khan Schmitz (Jake Hildebrand), three bird girls (Chelsea Huang, Melanie Mercer and Maia Greco), tricky monkey trio the Wickersham Brothers (Jason Lam, Sydney Pauhl and Ahnika Barber), scene-changing duo Thing 1 and Thing 2 (Max Kluftinger and Robbie MacEwan) and black-bottomed eagle Vlad Vladikoff (Sophie Campbell), plus Mr. Mayor (Christopher Hall), Mrs. Mayor (Rebekah MacEwan) and assorted denizens of Whoville.
For Brad and his wife Chantelle – making their debuts as director and producer for this show – a definite advantage is having gathered a solid cast of familiar faces from the last few FVGSS seasons, including some 14 returnees from the society’s most recent pantomime, the popular Peter Pan.
“We’ve been super-blessed with the cast from day one,” Chantelle said. “They’ve made it really easy on all of us in so far as bringing these characters to life.”
“Because we all grew up reading Dr. Seuss, for the actors, it gives a chance of putting your own spin on each character,” Brad said.
“There’s this entire Dr. Seuss culture we’re working with. It’s weird – but it’s kind of exciting.”
Also helping capture the distinctively whimsical Seuss world, they say, are props mistress Lorraine Busch, costume designer Sarah Barber and set designer Omanie Elias.
“It’s very authentic to the look of the books,” Chantelle said.
“Because we can’t use drops in the White Rock Playhouse, we have to create every single scene with just scenery,” Brad said. “Omanie has had to be very creative in accomplishing that.”
Choreography – by seasoned FVGSS talents Tamara Jaune and her assistant Elizabeth ‘Bizzy’ Lay – also promises to provide additional spark to the staging, while musical direction is in the highly capable hands of society veteran Tim Tucker.
“Tim has been looking forward to doing Seussical for years,” Chantelle said. “He loves this show and the music, and he’s super-invested in it – and that’s showing in how good the cast sounds. It was challenging to begin with, but he’s been able to bring out all of the talent.”
“The music is really beautiful,” added Brad.
Also helping the show progress smoothly is the close-knit, extended-family feeling of FVGSS – boosted by a number of genuine parent-children family connections in the cast and production team (Brad’s mom, for instance, is a member of the ensemble).
The production has also benefited from the experience and mentorship of such long-serving FVGSS members as Mike Balser, Lyn Verra Lay and Barbie Warwick, they said.
“And the producer-director relationship in this show is excellent,” quipped Brad.
One of the biggest thrills of Seussical for the couple, Chantelle noted, is that, this time at least, they will actually have a chance to sit and watch all the elements of the show come together on stage.
For most of their four years with FVGSS, they have been performers on stage, including the first show they auditioned for (HMS Pinafore, in 2015) and the most recent (Peter Pan).
The couple met through the musical theatre program at Cedar Grove Baptist Church, but had their first real chance to work together on stage through FVGSS productions, Brad said.
So far their marriage doesn’t seem to have suffered from their current assignment, they said, possibly because their personalities are complementary rather than combative.
“We’re both arts people, but he’s more creative and I’m more analytical,” Chantelle added.
“I’m more of the artsy, disorganized personality,” Brad acknowledged.
“Without my wife, I would probably explode.”
Evening performances are at 7:30 p.m., with weekend matinees at 2:30 p.m.
The Playhouse is located at 1532 Johnston Rd.
For tickets and information, call 604-536-7535 or visit fvgss.org