by Bruce Strand, Arts Editor
We first meet ERHS newcomer Tabetha VanDeventer on stage playing Mayzie La Bird, sitting on an egg, when Horton, an amiable elephant played by Adam Harbeneh, enters. Mayzie charms Horton into taking the egg off her hands. After that, carefree as a bird, she sings and dances into everyone’s heart, as the many zany plots from Dr. Seuss’ imagination unfold in “Seussical the Musical,” the ERHS spring musical that starts a two-weekend run tonight (Friday). (See schedule below).
“Everyone’s supposed to have a crush on her. She is what every girl wants to be and what every guy wants to be with,” said VanDeventer, a sophomore who arrived eight months ago after one year at Anoka, and before that, Buford, S.C. Her dad was career military, so she has moved a lot.
While a new face here, this is VanDeventer’s fourth high school play, and she sings with a polish and style remindful of the ladies in “Chicago.” Landing one of the main roles, she has several songs, including “Amazing Mayzie.”
“We are very lucky to have Tabetha in our program, because she has great vocals and is an awesome actress,” Director Michelle Brooks said.
Harbeneh, Cara Fromm as Gertrude and Jordan Meyer as Cat in the Hat also lead the large cast.
About the three seniors, Brooks observed, “Ironically, all three, in some ways, have aspects of the characters they play. Adam has the kindness, empathy and loyalty that embodies Horton. Cara is that girl next door who is loyal, kind and sweet. Jordan is fun-loving and graceful like a cat. All three of them work hard to perfect their parts.”
Brooks, who has staged some serious stuff here, went with a light-hearted entry to close the 2012-13 school year.
“It is a great show for all ages, because everyone is familiar with Dr. Seuss, and it incorporates so many different Dr. Seuss books and characters. Plus it is full of fun songs, amazing costumes, fabulous dance numbers and outstanding music. It is whimsical, fun and just leaves one feeling happy.”
The lumbering, loving Horton is Harbeneh, a staple in ERHS theater for four years, in his 12th and final play.
Horton hears a cry for help in a speck of dust, places it on a clover for safekeeping and embarks on a quest that eventually takes him to Whoville and its tiny, troubled residents, the Who’s, who are indeed in dire need of help, especially Jojo (Jake Berglove), the mayor’s son. Jojo’s wild imagination always gets him in trouble and he winds up getting drafted by the army and sent right to the war front. Horton is there to help. “No one believes Horton at first and he is basically alone,” said Harbeneh. Along with taking over that egg, Horton also spends time in a circus cage after being captured by hunters. “But things eventually get better.”
Fromm’s Gertrude is a bird of some unknown variety who’s “awkward and klutzy and plain,” she explains, and infatuated with Horton. She is the first to believe him and assist him, although Horton is too focused on helping others to pay her much notice. Fromm is another senior stage veteran, in her 13th role over six years.
Playing Cat in the Hat is the 6-foot-4, 240-pound football star Meyer, who decided to try a new experience in his final months of high school. He’s the moderator and gets to rattle off many funny rhymes.
“I was looking at the photos on the wall of the past musicals one day, and I thought it looked like fun,” Meyer said. “I didn’t expect to get a big role.”
The cast also includes James Bounds and Emma Crane as Mr. and Mrs. Mayor of Whoville, Grace Heyne (Sour Kangaroo), Lucas Laniel (General Schmitz), Emily Meyer (Yertl the Turtle), Billy Gleason (the Grinch), Morgan Shryock (Cindy Lou Who), Andy Bronstheyn (Lorax), Kael Smith (Vlad Vladkoff), and Molly Perry and Linda Paranto (Thing 1 and Thing 2).
There’s also the Bird Girls (Ali Brady, Bridgette Hulse, Emily Motin, Jenny Nordstrom, Abby Howse), the Wickersham Brothers (Gleason, Smith, Andrew Elmquist, Jesse McCormick, Keith Sullivan, Grayson Ziegler), Who Cadets (Hope Martindale, Samantha Weber, Alex Thorsen, Kaitlyn Brinza, Mariana Gonzalez), Who Citizens (Beth Brady, Erin Stein, Shannon White, Taylor Nelson), Hunches (Shryock, Hannah Gandrud, Jaide Friese, Perry, Erin Stein), and Animals (Kelsey Wakeman, Maddie O’Connor, Gandrud, Chesmore, Fries, Halle Harrington).
Terrell Beaudry is the music director. John Rosner directs the orchestra, which, for the first time, is situated at the back of the stage (behind the set) rather than in the pit.
The crooked and colorful Jungle of Nool set was constructed (as have been several ERHS plays) by local carpenter and stage mom Chris White.
When asked why she thinks people should see “Seussical,” VanDeventer, 16, said, “Because it brings you back to when you were young! And I like that everything rhymes!”
“Seussical the Musical”
At ERHS Zabee Theatre
Friday, April 26, at 7 p.m.
Saturday, April 27, at 2 and 7 p.m.
Thursday, May 2, at 7 p.m.
Friday, May 3, at 7 p.m.
Saturday, May 4, at 7 p.m.