Dr. Seuss on the loose

Jacob Lane · Wednesday, November 15, 2017
West Liberty High School proudly presented “The Seussical” Nov. 9-11, a whimsical walk down the pathway of the imagination.

The musical, directed by WLHS Science Teacher Olivia Symmonds, paid homage to the works of Dr. Suess, telling one of his most famous tales “Horton Hears a Who.”

With catchy music, vibrant costumes and unique props, the Seussical was brought together by a colorful collage of student talent.

“It is so gratifying to see how much my students have grown as performers,” said Symmonds. “I love watching those kids who were so shy at auditions have so much fun on stage!”

Zachary Haskell lead the way as the “Cat in the Hat,” the audience’s quirky and omnicompetent guide through the wild wonderland of Dr. Suess.

Zach and the Cat seemed almost one-and-the-same, delivering the sort of performance one could only get from a veteran of West Liberty theater.

“Zach has the perfect personality to play the Cat in the Hat,” said Symmonds. “He has a mischievous confidence and is always looking to make people laugh. He's also very talented, but more importantly he's a hard worker.”

He was joined by Natalie Saucedo, junior, who encompassed the role of a young Jojo, the tiny ‘Who’ that first hears Horton calling out to him from beyond.

“I think it’s kind of funny, because the Suessical itself is meant for kids, and I’m supposed to play a kid,” she said. “I enjoy doing it.”

“I had a lead role role in the musical Mary Poppins where I was the kid also,” she added. “I apparently have that kid voice when singing.”

Another prominent figure in the musical was Ayden Mathias, junior, who carried the role of Horton, an elephant with a moral compass always pointed north.

“The character development of Horton just grows and grows throughout the entire show instead of just being something static,” said Ayden.

“The songs are fun and there’s lots of stuff in the musical to love,” he said. “I have to say this show ranks number one right now.”

West Liberty High School was responsible for the production this year, a task that’s traded back and forth between it and the middle school.

As usual, the production was larger than life, running for three nights in-a-row in the high school auditorium.

Ayden Mathias had an additional challenge as Horton. While his colleagues danced and pranced around, he spent more than half of the musical sitting down in order to protect an egg.

“It’s painful, because sitting in the chair I feel like it’s going to break,” he said. “When you have to sit for three-fourths of the show your body starts hating you. I started getting cramps in my toes.”

Behind the actors was a plethora of props and an impressive multilevel set of platforms.

The show included thousands of bubbles the fell down from the ceiling onto the audience, plenty of confetti and plungers used as swords.

Lighting played a role in the production as well, with the use of a giant screen in the background to project different colors in order to set the mood of the musical.

“There are so many elements to this show in addition to the performers, like my backstage crew, the kids who helped make and paint props, and the tech crew, and their hard work has brought the show to another level,” said Director Symmonds.

“I couldn’t help but have a giant grin when the curtains opened and I got to watch my students have a blast on stage,” she said.

Work for the production began the first week of school, including auditions and workshops. The students have been rehearsing since September.

It was quite a bit of work to go from nothing to everything, especially in the manor needed for the Seussical. In the end it was a full three-hour production.

“It has made leaps and bounds, it has gotten so much better over the last few weeks,” said Aiden LeMay, senior. He had the distinct honor of playing the Mayor of Whoville.

“Everybody was great, we all had our highs and lows, we all got stressed at some points, but overall everybody was just a really good sport about it,” he said.

Music direction was headed by Choir Director Nathan Shivers while the orchestra that provided the music for the production was led by Band Director Ashley Smith.

The assistant director was Beth Halverson, scenic design and construction was courtesy of Ron Haskell and Mark McLain and costume design was done by Olivia Smith.

Actually, the costumes danced a fine line between practical and prismatic.

Zach’s ‘The Cat in the Hat’ donned a black suit with the iconic hat. Ayden’s Horton wore all gray with suspenders and Mayzie LaBird, played by Tatum Dickey, was… sassy.

“I liked being sassy, really getting into character. That’s my favorite part,” said Tatum, a junior with a booming singing voice.

“Getting into the high ranges was the hardest part,” she said. “Going from the raspiness and into the really pretty parts and high ranges is difficult.”

In the end, the Seussical drew in respectful crowd all three nights of its production. It was the next in a long line of fine performances to come out of West Liberty high school.

“I love this cast,” said Director Symmonds. “They are always thinking creatively about how to add more fun to the show and had a lot of input in what we see on stage.”

“I love watching the actors, whether they're in the spotlight or in the background, create a personal character and bring that personality to life during the performance,” she concluded.
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