Cornerstone Youth Theatre is gearing up for a delightful trek into the characters in the famous Dr. Seuss stores in their latest production, Seussical.
Shows run Feb. 27th-28th and March 6th-7th at New Life Fellowship Church.
Curtain is at 7 p.m. with 3 p.m. performances also slated for Feb. 28th and March 7th.
Director Laura DeGraff said there will be lots of familiar faces popping up along the way as the story unfolds, and it will be sure to please long-time fans of the books plus those who are new to the material as well.
“The whole story is a bit of a mishmash of characters and intersecting story lines,” she said. “We meet the Cat in the Hat first, who acts as the narrator throughout the show. One of the main story lines comes from Horton Hears a Who, so we meet Horton the elephant as well as the Whos.
“Horton is the only jungle animal who can hear the tiny Whos living on a dust speck so he must protect them as best he can,” she said. “Meanwhile, the Whos have their own set of problems to deal with. Other characters you may recognize are jungle birds Gertrude and Mayzie, Jojo the Who, and even the Grinch!
“Audiences will notice references to all sorts of Seuss stories throughout the play and a lot of his writing is spoken exactly the way he wrote it.
“I’ve really enjoyed being able to work on this show,” she said. “The music and the script are so much fun and the entire musical is just so big and cartoony and colourful. It’s a great chance to dream big on the stage. The performers and everyone involved get to stretch themselves in a new way.”
Seuss stories certainly haven’t lost their appeal over the years, and there are a number of reasons for that. DeGraff said the stories have several qualities that “hook” people in.
“Firstly, his stories have so much fun with words,” she said. “The rhyming, bouncing rhythm keep readers moving smoothly along, and they’re a pleasure to read many times over.
“Also, they’re so creative. The characters are completely outlandish and bizarre. We’re shown worlds that we’ve never dreamt of before. Lastly, I don’t think Seuss was afraid to deal with more meaningful subjects.
“Along with the absurd fantasy comes a depth of meaning that makes people stop to think about their own lives. It’s never preachy or pedantic; it’s simply an invitation to reflect on our own experiences.”
There is a cast of 58 and a crew of 14 for this particular production – all of them between the ages of eight and 18.
“The numbers may seem intimidating to some, but it’s honestly such a huge privilege and pleasure to work with them all,” she said. “Our students are so dedicated and passionate. I personally love seeing the growth in every one of them from our very first rehearsal all the way until closing night.”
Meanwhile, DeGraff said theatre is a superb experience for young people, and really helps to build up a number of skills.
“Theatre is great for our students because it gives them confidence and skills that they can bring into any future endeavour,” she said. “Our students learn how to stick with a task until the end, how to present themselves confidently to others, and how to work collaboratively with each other towards a common goal. That’s a skill set that goes way beyond the stage.”
It’s certainly provides DeGraff with lots of fulfillment. Watching her students grow in their talents is also inspiring.
“I love the positive family environment that is at Cornerstone,” she explained. “The parents of our cast work hard to put this production on as well, and they always bring every element of the show to life.”
Directing presents a number of challenges, but in a positive way. For DeGraff, the joy springs from seeing her vision come to life onstage.
“I get to add in the shapes and colours and sounds of the production. I also love being able to work as a teacher for the cast and crew. I know I mentioned earlier about life skills gained, but our students also learn excellent theatre skills throughout the run of the show and grow as performers and crewmembers.
“I’m inspired by many things. The students are always first and foremost. Being a part of that positive experience for our students really is its own reward. On a more personal level theatre is a never-ending challenge. Like any art form, you can always be pushing yourself to think more creatively and grow in your ability. Each show I direct comes with its own set of challenges and I always come out a stronger director at the end of it.”
Tickets can be purchased online at www.CornerstoneYouthTheatre.org or by calling the box office at 403-986-2981.