‘Seussical Jr.’ comes alive on middle school stage

By on May 1, 2014

Photo: Kaneland Harter Middle School presented “Seussical Jr.” on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, with over 400 people attending Saturday’s show. The production brought to life many classic Dr. Seuss storybook characters, including The Cat in the Hat, Horton the Elephant, Thing 1 and Thing 2, and Mayzie La Bird, who was played by HMS 7th-grader Rachael Lutter. Lutter sings “Mayzie’s Exit” during the show. Photo by Lynn Logan

KANELAND—The musical “Seussical Jr.” came alive on Friday, Saturday and Sunday on the stage at Kaneland Harter Middle School, featuring Dr. Seuss’ storybook characters in vivid costumes. A cast of 50 students took to the stage for the musical.

Characters included The Cat in Hat, complete with tall red- and white-striped hat. Thing 1 and Thing 2 wore shimmery red with fringe and blue wigs.

Sugar Grove resident Caitlyn Rawers, an eighth-grader at HMS, played a jungle citizen. She called being on the stage “incredible.”

“I liked seeing how people were smiling and laughing and enjoying themselves at the show,” Rawers said. “So I felt very proud of what we’d done and pulled together.”

The musical was a success, according to Rachel Shershen, co-choral music director at Harter Middle School and co-director of “Seussical Jr.

“It was a major success both in terms of how the students did and in terms of tons of people wanting to come out and bring their kids,” Shershen said. “And we had pretty packed audiences for every show.”

Shershen said that 800 or 900 people in total attended the musical.

Kaneland parent Heidi Kintz, a Sugar Grove resident, caught the show.

“I thought it was fabulous,” she said.

Kintz noted the students’ energy and talent, as well as the direction that they received, as what made the production so good. She recalled a tune that had a particular “southern Miami, Latin beat.”

“We would just be sitting there tapping our toe,” Kintz said. “It was really fun.”

Kintz’s daughter Ainsley, a sixth-grader at HMS, attested to the fun part. She played two roles in “Seussical Jr.”—a cheerful Who character and a fish.

“It just came naturally to me,” Ainsley said. “I’m always happy.”

As for playing a fish, she tapped into her dance background of ballet and lyrical dance.

Students sang all 36 songs in the musical, and even danced. Rawers noted that the students did grapevines, plenty of “swing type dancing,” clapping and some ad-lib moves.

“We could just improv and do what we wanted,” Rawers said. “So I think those were the most fun, because you didn’t have to be perfect.”

Shershen said that practices for “Seussical Jr.” began in mid-February. Students spent between two and three weeks learning the songs. Practices were typically an hour and a half each, but when the students learned blocking and choreography, practice was up to two hours in duration.

Then there was “tech week,” where practice could go up to two and a half hours.

“We added all the lights and the sound cues and the stage crew,” Shershen said. “Before we knew it, it was go time.”