“A person’s a person, no matter how small.”
The Shippensburg community was introduced to the colorful world of Dr. Seuss earlier this month as Shippensburg Area Middle School students delivered a timely message during a lively production of “Seussical Jr.”
The musical, directed by Shippensburg high school graduate Luke Lyman, introduces several Dr. Seuss characters to audiences, mainly revolving around Horton the Elephant (Noah Henry) in the Jungle of Nool, and JoJo (Cayden Weist), on the planet Who, “the tiniest planet in the sky.”
In the play, Horton the Elephant of “Horton Hears a Who,” hears cries for help coming from a tiny speck of dust with his large ears. He stops the speck from flying away by placing it on a bright clover. However, though he knows he can hear the Whos, his fellow jungle creatures aren’t quite convinced that he isn’t certifiably insane. While Horton is bullied and ridiculed for his behavior, he vows to save his tiny friends because “a person’s a person, no matter how small.” “Seussical Jr.” takes audiences on a wild ride through JoJo’s imagination, fueled by the Cat in the Hat (Treslyn Staggs) and Thing One (Cambree Yonish) and Thing Two (Lydia Lyman), while depicting Horton’s world in the jungle.
A Sour Kangaroo (Shaylan Camut) and her Little Kangaroo (Grace Hipple) are determined to make everyone believe Horton is crazy, and the group of monkeys known as the Wickersham Brothers (Nicholas Froio, Alexander Smelts, Abanoub Bebawy, Zachary Barber, Britton Boardman, Noah Eveland, August Wildermuth, Erick Herman and Pierce Crawley) want to cause trouble for Horton, and eventually steal his clover.
Horton’s clover falls into a field of thousands more flowers, and is forced to stop searching for the Whos when the selfish Mayzie LaBird (Lan Knight) begs him to sit on her egg in a nest while she takes a “short” vacation. He agrees to sit on it for a few hours, and Mayzie saunters out of the jungle (and to Florida!). Horton stays true to his word and never leaves the nest, even when Mayzie disappears for weeks on end. He doesn’t even leave the nest when hunters capture him and sell him to the circus.
In the end, Gertrude saves the day! She has admired Horton from afar, and finally musters up the courage to tell him how she feels when she finds him on tour in Florida … she even finds Horton’s clover after searching for it for many weeks.
The jungle animals decide enough is enough, and end up putting Horton on trial, and it’s up to JoJo and his wild imagination to save the Whos from being boiled. He shouts a word no one has ever heard, and it breaks the barrier, making believers out of the skeptics.
Audiences fell in love with the production and those in attendance noted how hard the students worked to deliver a fun show full of meaning.
“It was awesome! I thought it was really good,” Laura Henry said. “I think it’s a universal message that everyone can relate to, to include everyone. It’s good for the times now.”
Scott Eckenrode said “Seussical Jr.” was “probably one of the best middle school performances I’ve seen.”
“It was an all-around great show. The cast was cute and animated. Luke did a great job, and so did all of the kids. I think in today’s world it’s important to portray a positive attitude in following through. It’s a great message, especially in speaking to middle school and high school students.”
Diana Fick of St. Louis, Missouri, traveled to Shippensburg to see her relative John Bellmann perform as one of the Whos.
“They did an excellent job!” she exclaimed. “We go to the theatre all the time in St. Louis, and this was right up there with them.”
Lyman was celebrating his directorial debut for the show. The 2018 SASHS graduate is currently attending Shippensburg University. He belonged to the SASHS Drama Club and performed in various productions, including the lead in “Music Man.”
“I heard they didn’t have a director for the show, so I decided to do it,” he said.
Lyman said Shippensburg high school drama club director Luke Reed helped him a lot with the show. Reed also served as master designer/set designer for “Seussical Jr.”
“Luke Reed has been super helpful with a lot of stuff,” he said. “I wanted to help make the transition from middle school to high school theatre easier for the students. I took all of my 8th graders over to their rehearsals at the high school so they have someone over there to help support them,” he added.
“I chose the show because it is entertaining and brings up the discussion of standing up for others when they can’t stand up for themselves, as well as self-acceptance and social issues. Musicals use the art to talk about social issues that are tough to talk about. Dr. Seuss did that a lot, like with ‘The Lorax.’ He wasn’t just a children’s author.”
Treslyn said she was excited to play The Cat in the Hat because the role “fits my personality, which is insane and crazy,” she quipped. She said putting the show on before an audience was a bit nerve-wracking, but she felt the audience had a great reaction to their performances and the show helped her come out of her shell.
“I hope they had a good time and that they understood the message,” she added of the audience.
Haven said she wanted to perform in “Seussical Jr.” because she loves being around the Drama Club.
“It’s a great group of people to be around,” she added.
Noah said this was “definitely one of the best experiences of my entire life. These are some of my favorite people in the world, so I couldn’t not do it.”
Haven said she relates to her character because Gertrude is very self-conscious (especially about her one-feathered tail), and she feels she is pretty self-conscious.
“One of Horton’s big things is he stands up for other people when they need it, and I’d like to think I stand up for people when they need it,” Noah said of his character.
Both Noah and Haven said they loved how supportive the audiences and community were.
“I hope the audiences took away that it’s always best to treat people like you want to be treated,” Noah added.
“I think it’s a great message for young kids and adults, especially in the world today,” added Zoe Wewer, who played Mrs. Mayor.
Production Manager Kaitlin Bigham said it was a lot of fun working with the cast and crew.
“They really brought it to life with their energy and their love of the theatre,” she said. “I’m really proud of them. So many adults helped with this production. The community support has been amazing! We really have a great community willing to step up and help out when we need it!”
Other production members included: John Piper, music director/choreographer; Sarah Hipple, choreographer; Tori Campbell, poster design; photographer Tyler Rock; and Jaden Forsythe, sound.
Remaining cast members included: Andrew Pica as Yertle the Turtle; Angelo Mcardell as Mr. Mayor; Tyshawn Brown as The Grinch; Nicholas Larusso as Vlad Vladnikoff; Kira Shirk, Olivia Hower, Angela Cai, Ella Jones, Lexie Wyrick, Carolyn Hardin, Katrina Findley, Kaylee Kierzkowski, Sterling Feeney and Kylie Ryan as the Bird Girls; Grace Bard, Lilly Ware, Kiersten Rhinehart, Hayleigh Wall, Anna Massara, Allie Oshea, Abigayle Saboe, Addilyn Endrusick, Savanna Correa, Lucille Burg, Leann Lamonica, Kaitlyn Kipe, Josefina Walls, Sarah Cook and Liliana Wenger as the Jungle Animals; Rachel Fredrick, Carter Eckenrode, Adeline Powell, Drew Callaghan, TJ Wilson, Issac J. Crumlich, Wyatt Watts, Shelby Heberlig, Isabella Kyle, Mariah Goiran, Brooklyn Powell, Halie Freeman, Madelyn Goiran, Sophia Faiano, Sierra Dennis, Liliana Wenger, Ida Langella, Emily Erksine and John Bellmann as the Whos.
Crew members included: Paul Huang, Sarah Huang, Denzel Surcica, Addie Goyt, Luke Barber, Russell Blessing, Morgan Diehl, Hunter Fledgle and Sara Cramer.