February 26, 2019

Wit, wisdom and wild characters of Dr. Seuss spell fun for “Seussical”

As University of Saint Francis junior animation major Louis Soria transforms into The Cat in the Hat for “Seussical,” the university’s musical, he’s not sure it’s much of a transformation.

Soria feels a strong connection to the gangly, bold and mischievous Cat.

“I’m a fairly outgoing, ecstatic individual, so this role kind of suits me well,” Soria said. “The Cat in the Hat is very wild, and multiple times he’s referred to as an ‘agent of chaos,’ in the footnotes. That is exactly where I belong.”

The Cat in the Hat is just one of the many familiar, beloved characters who come to life as part of “Seussical,” which runs March 22-24 and March 29-31 at the USF Robert Goldstine Performing Arts Center, 431 W. Berry St.  All evening shows start at 7:30 p.m. and there are three 2 p.m. matinees.

The musical, which features Horton the elephant and many other Dr. Seuss creations, is expected to strike a chord with children of all ages. The cast includes ages 5 on up, and the audience is likely to follow suit.

“I wanted to do something that is family-friendly and fun,” director Brad Beauchamp said. “There’s so much drama going on in the news. To be honest, this is what we need right now. It’s exactly what we need.”

Other lead characters include Horton the elephant played by Jordan Gameon, Gertrude McFuzz played by Kennedy Lomont and Mayzie La Bird played by Tia Hackbush. Lomont is a sophomore English major and Hackbush is a senior Health & Exercise Science major. Fifteen performers in the 34-member cast are USF students. Gameon is a test engineer at BAE Systems who has been involved in a number of local productions.

“This is my first one with college students,” said Gameon, who played Buddy in the Civic Theatre’s “Elf: The Musical” recently. “They’re just having so much fun, it’s infectious. That extra energy is fun to be around.”

Lomont and Hackbush both pointed to that energy, as well, saying the production’s uplifting spirit is reflected in the fun the cast is having reproducing the Dr. Seuss characters.

Both are enjoying their roles.

“Gertrude McFuzz is a shy bird who has an unrequited love for Horton the elephant and the whole musical she tries to pick up the courage to get Horton to notice her,” Lomont said. “One of the songs I sing is ‘Notice me, Horton,’ and he still doesn’t get it.”

Hackbush describes Mayzie as a carefree soul who lives her life without any regret, taking on new adventures with an outgoing personality.

“I think the kids who come to the show will enjoy the costuming,” Hackbush said. “It’s bright and colorful and, for me, a good step back into my childhood. It’s absolutely a show for all ages.”

Beauchamp said he believes one of Dr. Seuss’ greatest strengths in his writing is the message his stories deliver. “As much as you think they’re cute little children’s stories, they’re laced and laden with lots of messages,” Beauchamp said.

“It’s about treating everyone equal, even people who are different than us,” Hackbush said. “Overall, being friendly to your neighbor and understanding others.”

“Seussical” dates and show times:

  • Friday, March 22, 7:30 p.m.
  • Saturday, March 23, 7:30 p.m.
  • Sunday, March 24, 2 p.m.
  • Friday, March 29, 7:30 p.m.
  • Saturday, March 30, 2 p.m. & 7:30 p.m.
  • Sunday, March 31, 2 p.m.

Tickets for “Seussical” are available through the ArtsTix Community Box Office at 260-422-4226 or tickets.artstix.org. Doors open 30 minutes before the show for general seating. Ticket prices are $17 for adults (free for USF students, faculty and staff) and $15 for seniors 65 and older and children under 18. Group rates of $12 per person are available to groups of 20 or more. The production is made possible by the generous support of USF alumna Toni Murray.