'Seussical The Musical' by Notre Dame High School Drama Club
Nancy Sasso Janis
OnStage Connecticut Columnist
West Haven, CT - I am going to admit that I suspect that I am turning into a ‘Seussical’ snob. I love the show, I have reviewed it several times and someday I am going to audition to play a Who. The musical with a book by Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty, music by Flaherty, lyrics by Ahrens, with some co-conceiving done by Eric Idle and based upon the works of Dr. Seuss is becoming one of the favorites of this first grade teacher. I looked forward to seeing the production presented by the Notre Dame High School Drama Club in The Collins Auditorium at the school in West Haven.
The author writes that their musical incorporates elements from at least 15 of Seuss’ books, and showcases many of his best-loved characters that get to meet for the first time in this show. “Dr. Seuss believes in helping a friend, in not giving up, in keeping a promise. He believes in the value and the dignity of others, in working to preserve the fragile sweetness of the natural world, and he believes that peace is the ultimate ideal, amongst nations and in every heart. He also believes in the pure power of imagination.” That pretty much sums up this colorful and heartwarming musical.
Rosemary O’Brien directed the students from Notre Dame and girls from area high school's; Drama Club Moderator Casey LaMonaca was her producer. Ms. O’Brien began her career in musical theater with her first show at ND, is the mom of an ND student, the wife on an ND alum and a graduate of Sacred Heart Academy. Band director and chair of the Fine Arts Department Jason Arnold served as music director and conducted the wonderful adult orchestra. The wubbulous choreography was done by SCSU grad Victoria Streeto and the art director was Robert Miller, a ‘71 grad and the art teacher at ND. The colorful set of costumes were designed exclusively by the team of Renee Purdy and Aurora Montenero for the Warner Theatre.
Freshman Alexander Barbour, sophomore Liam Fryer and senior Adam Hall played the playful Wickersham brothers in black leather vests. Ashleigh Bass returned to the ND Drama Club to play Mayzie La Bird and she brought a brashness to her character in both singing and acting. Katy Dougherty, Courtney Durso, Jesse Greene sang in good harmony and danced as the trio of Bird Girls and Mark Bissell, a junior did well as Mr. Mayor. Anika Vanderwal, a senior at Lauralton Hall, was Mrs. Mayor of Whoville.
Sarah Kulaga, a senior at Lauralton Hall, was a spectacular Gertrude McFuzz. She brought a Kristin Chenoweth quality to this fun rule. From her perfectly cute speaking voice to impressive singing and acting, she embodied the character adorably, especially in “All for You.” Nathan Matto, Drama Club President, did very well as the mischievous Cat in the Hat. He made the most of conducting the orchestra during the Entr’Act.
I was extremely impressed with the performance of Thomas Scott in the role of General Schmitz; this accomplished bass sang very well and brought lots of acting talent to the military role. Kudos to this young actor on making the most of this featured role. Katherine Simonetti, a Lauralton senior, wowed the crowd with her voice in the role of the Sour Kangaroo.
Miguel Corzo, a senior at ND and VP of the Drama Club, did very well in the role of the loveable elephant Horton. Joelle Cote, a junior at Sacred Heart Academy in her third year with the club, was a triple threat in the role of young Jojo, the young boy with a huge imagination. She was animated throughout and her vocals were flawless.
Senior Andrew Biondi appeared onstage as Thing 1 and freshman Ethan Johnson was his partner in moving things as Thing 2. Roscoe Dillman was the green Grinch in his senior show at Notre Dame. Alex Gentile played the eagle Vlad Vladikoff and sophomore R.J. Robinson Thomas played Yertle the Turtle judge.
The ensembles included the cadets dressed in camo, Whoville creatures in blues and yellows, fish in shimmering skirts, circus personnel and hunches with light up gloves and of course the Jungle of Nool creatures. They filled the stage colorfully for the opening number. Kudos to the featured tap dancers Hannah Battipaglia, Madison Brenchack and Caron Kim, the featured dancers and the featured vocal students. The cast was 45 actors strong.
The hallways leading to the doors of the auditorium were decorated with colorful Seuss trees around the concession stand and the classic children’s books were on display. Some of the set elements were pure Dr. Seuss while others more modern. I loved the curved piano that The Cat played in “How Lucky You Are” but I thought we could have done without some of the added sound effects.
It was nice to see the parochial schools working together to properly cast this show. The opening night performance was only about one-third full so I hope that more family and friends came out for the weekend performances of this magical production at Notre Dame.
Photo by Notre Dame High School