On selected dates from March 18-27, the Roberta Jones Junior Theatre (RJJT) is running the musical “Seussical” with a live orchestra. Based on a number of Dr. Seuss’s children’s books, “Seussical” tells the story of Horton (Jack Lingscheit), an elephant who guards an egg and connects with a planet, inhabited by Whos, existing inside a clover. Gertrude McFuzz, a bird with a one-feather tail, seeks Horton’s attention.
At the March 12 dress rehearsal, 32 cast members, ages 8 to 18, showed their pizzazz on stage.
“For the shows, the cast members will wear plastic face shield masks,” said Trisha Cooley, Assistant Producer and Choreographer. “These masks hook over the ear like sunglasses and they fit like face shields over the nose and cover the mouth. There are a number of body mics that can hook over the ear and go over the shoulder and be worn under the costume. The body mics are worn by the lead characters who have larger solos.”
Sophie Hawkins, 12, as Gertrude McFuzz, dreamily sang “The One Feather Tail of Miss Gertrude McFuzz.” Prior to this production, this Santa Clara resident has performed in two other “Seussical” productions as a Who with the Children’s Musical Theater and as Horton for StarStruck Theatre.
“The hardest part of rehearsing is wearing the masks because the masks make it harder to breathe,” said Hawkins, referring to how cast members had to wear regular face masks during this show’s rehearsals. “You need to have good breath support when you are singing and dancing at the same time.”
Worn for performances, the plastic face shield masks show the audience the cast members’ faces.
“Wearing a plastic face shield mask is great for communication and offers better storytelling,” Hawkins said. “People can see your face and your mouth moving. This mask shows how a character is feeling in the scene.”
Santa Clara resident Ben Caldwell, 18, is playing the Cat in the Hat, wearing the recognizable red and white striped hat. According to Caldwell, seven years ago, he performed in “Seussical” with RJJT as a Wickersham Brother.
Caldwell, as the Cat in the Hat, projected mischief in a number of scenes, including the one with the song, “How Lucky You Are.”
“This scene showcases who the Cat in the Hat is, a being of chaos,” Caldwell said. “In that scene, he’s highlighting that bad things can happen. The planet with the Whos is crashing and Horton can’t find where the clover, containing the planet, has landed.”
This particular production is special to Caldwell because “Seussical” is his final show with RJJT. In the fall, he will be heading to Northwestern University where he plans to double major in Integrated Science and Chemistry.
“I have done an estimated 30 shows with RJJT,” Caldwell said. “I was four years old when I started in the program with the ‘Imagine Me’ class. With RJJT, I have gained so much confidence in my abilities to trust myself and be willing to do things, like get up on a stage and say things in front of hundreds of people.”