‘Seussical Jr.’ opens this weekend

Oh, the thinks you can think.

Imagine a story with Dr. Seuss characters from “Green Eggs and Ham,” “One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish,” “Yertle the Turtle,” “If I Ran the Circus” and “How the Grinch Stole Christmas.”

Don’t forget “The Cat in the Hat” and “Horton Hears a Who!”

For its 15th season, Youth Performing Arts will present a colorful musical based on the children’s books of Theodor Seuss Geisel.

Nate Brown as the Cat in the Hat leads the audience through a story involving many Dr. Seuss characters.

Nate Brown as the Cat in the Hat leads the audience through a story involving many Dr. Seuss characters.

“Seussical Jr.” opens this weekend at Forest Hills United Methodist Church, 1790 11th St. SE in Forest Lake.

There are shows on Saturday, Jan. 18 and Sunday, Jan. 19 at 3 and 7 p.m. The second and final weekend has shows at 3 and 7 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday, Jan. 25 and 26.

Tickets are free, but because of limited seating, reservations are recommended. Visit www.youthperformingarts.org.

Junior Nate Brown is the Cat in the Hat, who tells the story. Sophomore Grayson DeWolfe plays Horton, an elephant who discovers a speck of dust containing Whos.

As a seventh-grader, Brown played Charlie in the YPA production of “Willie Wonka” and last spring was Daniel in “Once on This Island.”

Brown and DeWolfe appeared together as brothers in “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.”

Last year DeWolfe was a narrator in “Once on This Island.” This is his first major YPA lead.

Grayson DeWolfe is Horton the Elephant, whose large ears allow him to hear the Whos.

Grayson DeWolfe is Horton the Elephant, whose large ears allow him to hear the Whos.

For Brown, a highlight of the show is improvising with the audience. At one point in the action, “there are no set lines,” he said. “It will be different every night. The audience could interact if they want to.”

In addition to the Cat in the Hat, Brown also plays an auctioneer, two TV news reporters and Doctor Dake.

Other characters include Hannah Mack as Who child Jojo, Reagan Meyer as Fish, Kelsey Sarver as Gertrude McFuzz, Bri Flasch as Mayzie the Bird, Blaine Anderson and Teresa Mahnke as Mr. and Mrs. Mayor, Amanda Hennen as Sour Kangaroo, Samuel O’Connor as the Grinch, Zoe Karan and Lauren Ivester as Thing 1 and Thing 2, John Deneen as Vlad Vladikoff and Carley Nadeau as Yertle the Turtle.

The cast includes jungle citizens, bird girls and circus animals.

The cast includes jungle citizens, bird girls and circus animals.

About 50 youth participate in the show. It is directed by Vanessa Novak and Shalee Dunaski Palmquist. Maurya Laqua is the musical director and also performs in the band. Choreography is supervised by YPA alumnus Caleb Rotach. Lori Brink designed the sets and Chad Ruter is technical director. Costumes were designed by YPA founder Susan Swanson Novak.

“Seussical,” which opened on Broadway in 2000, was written by Stephen Flaherty (music) and Lynn Ahrens (lyrics). The junior version has fewer characters, an edited plot and shortened songs. The show lasts 90 minutes, including intermission.

Whoville’s Mr. Mayor (Blaine Anderson, left) and Mrs. Mayor (Teresa Mahnke, right) sing a number with Jojo (Hannah Mack).

Whoville’s Mr. Mayor (Blaine Anderson, left) and Mrs. Mayor (Teresa Mahnke, right) sing a number with Jojo (Hannah Mack).

With imaginative costumes (the dancers look like Truffula trees) and very little dialogue, the story is told mainly through the action, scenery and  28 songs.

In “How to Raise a Child,” Mr. and Mrs. Mayor sing a song parents can relate to:

He was never any trouble
till this thinking thing began.
Where are the instructions
on how to raise a child?

Horton, feeling alone in the universe, laments:

Not a person seems to know.
Not a person seems to care.
There is no one
who believes a thing I say!

But everything works out for Horton, the Whos, even Gertrude McFuzz, and in the end, thinking receives the honor it deserves.

Kelsey Sarver is Gertrude McFuzz, the bird who laments having just one tail feather.

Kelsey Sarver is Gertrude McFuzz, the bird who laments having just one tail feather.

This is the only YPA production this year. Instead of putting on a spring show, the group will tour professional theaters. Brown and DeWolfe look forward to seeing how others make a career of something they both love to do.

Both young men invite teens to take advantage of the opportunities provided by the Youth Performing Arts program.

“YPA has a very inviting vibe,” DeWolfe said, with “friendliness and support for people of all backgrounds.”

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