'Seussical' at Trumbull High School
Nancy Sasso Janis
OnStage Connecticut Critic / Connecticut Critics Circle
“Dr. Seuss challenges his readers with the encouragement to celebrate differences and individuality and to believe in the incredible power of one’s voice to change the world. These stories remind us to seek true friendship, to love one another, and, despite all obstacles, to persist.” - Trumbull HS Artistic Director Jessica Spillane
Trumbull, CT - Trumbull High School does things in a big way; it is a large school with a big student body, and a huge marching band to match. So it was no surprise to me that the current production of ‘Seussical’ was just as big, large enough to fill the stage of the school’s large auditorium and featuring a cast of over sixty Trumbull teens and a pit orchestra of thirteen. Even bigger were the production values of this colorful show, where the imaginative mind of Dr. Seuss explodes from the Trumbull stage.
Artistic Director Jessica Spillane reveals in her director’s note that this production was a year in the making. “Seeing the world through Dr. Seuss’ eyes is not a bad way to spend a year,” she writes. While claiming no foresight in the selection of the 2017 musical, she highlights the fact that the kindness of these timeless characters remind us “a person’s a person no matter now small.”
There was nothing small about the fabulous set designed by Sam Maloney and Stephanie Bont that filled the large stage with 3D pieces loving ripped from the pages of a Dr. Seuss book. The rounded edges set on a slight angle were Seussically perfect and everything was thoughtfully painted to match the colorful mind of this creative genius. Add in the spectacular costumes designed by Jeanette Davidson, Mary Joan Wright and Merial Cornell and this world truly comes alive onstage. The Jungle of Nool had its own bright color palette and Whoville was done in cute pastels; makeup and especially hair design was charmingly creative.
Of course, all the impressive production values in the world cannot cover up less than stellar performances, but the Trumbull HS students are always up to the challenge. When they sang “Oh The Thinks You Can Think” together, the audience was entertained by a most colorful choir; smaller combinations of singers sounded just as good. The Bird Girls had the tightest harmonies I have ever heard in a Seussical production; they reminded me of a girl group from the fifties in the best way possible. The Wickersham Brothers, dressed in non-identical brown monkey costumes with a hint of fur, danced hip-hop with plenty of attitude and sang “Monkey Around” so very well. “Solla Sollew” was loving plaintive, if a little restrained, and “Having a Hunch” was creatively coordinated, with the dancers in imaginative costumes inspired by rags. I literally smiled my way through half of the first act, as I enjoyed seeing the choices that had been made come out on the stage.
The students in the ensemble made the most of every appearance and looked to being having tons of fun. The dance ensemble executed the clever choreography by Frank Root and Abigail Root very well, as did the entire cast; the few featured dancers added a lovely touch. The orchestra, under the direction of Music Director Jerold Goldstein, played the score with the perfect touch of delight and mostly did not overwhelm the vocals.
Harrison Gilberti was the wiley Cat in the Hat and switched well into the necessary accents used by his character. THS junior Christopher Conaway, a transfer from Fairfield Prep, was a woeful Horton the Elephant in a great quilted ensemble. Tessa Speaks, in her third musical at THS, made the audience love her as the one-feather tailed bird Gertrude McFuzz; her performance was pitch-perfect.
Alison Karpowich did well as the over the top Mayzie La Bird and she was backed up by the amazing Bird Girls, Sarah Giaquinto, Gabi Kwiatkowski and Anna Vitols, in perfectly coordinated ensembles. Matthew Ferri sang well as Mr. Mayor and Helen Samoskevich was adorable as his wife. Rachel Salem had the necessary pipes to pull off the role of the Sour Kangaroo and Andrea Alicea was her identically dressed youngster.
Gregory McKeon, as Judge Yertle the Turtle, used his bass voice very well to preside over the trial and Thomas Leonard commanded the stage as General Gengus Khan Schmitz in a gravity defying uniform. Danny Randazzo was a good Grinch and Liam Pierce was the eagle Vlad Vladicoff. Cory Lionetti and Kara Bowen appeared as Thing 1 and Thing 2 respectively.
For me, the standout performance was by sophomore Jacqueline Mate as Jojo. This young actress had stage presence well beyond her years and is a triple threat that I look forward to seeing again onstage.
The costumes of the Whos included lots of tubing in the hems to achieve the Seuss look and must have been lots of fun to wear onstage. Gina Gallo is credited with the sometimes sky-high hair design and Mandee Rosario was in charge of the thankfully not over the top makeup. The lighting designed by Matthew Bracksieck and Ariana Rojas added to the look of this production, but the sound design by Tom Ivanovich was not without a few minor glitches. In true Trumbull form, there were ten guys on the building crew, 29 people on the production crew and six on the running crew.
‘Seussical The Musical’ continues Friday and Saturday at 7:30pm next weekend in the Robert E. McCarthy Auditorium at Trumbull High School. Don’t miss it!
photos taken by THS alumni Ian Maloney