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BLTeens present ‘Seussical the Musical Jr.’

Sounds of Seuss with all of its familiar rhyme, colorful characters and little life lessons lift through the lobby at the Haven Theater as the BLTeens present “Seussical the Musical” from June 22-25.

Each June, teenagers from all over Brookhaven and the surrounding counties are given the opportunity to put their dramatic skills to good use. They star in their own production to showcase acting, singing and dancing talents and the money made from ticket sales is reinvested into Brookhaven Little Theatre to continue its mission of providing arts for all ages and fund continued improvements.

“We have come a long way with some improvements in the past couple of years but there are still more plans that will make the entire theater experience even better for both cast and audience members,” said Emily Waterloo, executive director of BLT and producer for the musical. Upgrades in the lobby, including expanded, renovated bathrooms and more auditorium improvements are being planned.

“Seussical” adds to a growing ongoing summer tradition for the theater. In the past, the shows have varied from dramatic to comedic with some more musical than others. This summer’s show is practically, entirely musical with singing and dancing from the first few moments to the very end.

Within the songs’ lyrics, the Dr. Seuss story of “Horton Hears a Who” unfolds. Horton the Elephant hears the pleas for help from a small village — Whoville — located within a clover flower that he finds. The Whos have become dislodged from their host flower and are floating aimlessly through the world around them. As Horton salvages the village by placing it upon a clover, the animals that live alongside Horton begin to doubt his sanity. He continues to believe, and speak to, a population that cannot be seen with the naked eye. Through continued taunting the fellow creatures — including birds, kangaroos, monkeys, Thing 1 and Thing 2, the Grinch and the Cat in the Hat — try to wear Horton’s beliefs and commitment down and convince him that his plight to save the Whos is ridiculous. Meanwhile, Gertrude the Bird tries to gain Horton’s affections to satisfy an ongoing crush that she has on him.

“Horton is the true hero of the story,” said Laura McDaniel, choreographer. “His character is so kind and thoughtful of others even after those around him doubt everything he says and everything he is trying to do.”

McDaniel, like the other production’s volunteer coaches, said teaching dance to students through a musical gives them a different, often important, side of theater.

“Some of these kids have been part of productions before but this may be their first musical with this much singing and dancing and being able to work on that skill will benefit them in their future on stage,” McDaniel said.

The BLTeens’ production is open to students seventh-12th grade and this year’s cast of 24 teens cover most of those ages. The cast was exposed to guest visitors from other community theaters and a cast agency. A representative from Rivertown Theater in Kenner, Louisiana, visited a practice and gave students constructive pointers to help polish the play. Another night, Morgan Casting from New Orleans visited with participants to train them on effective auditioning for theater, television and movies. Chris Roebuck from New Stage Theater in Jackson also attended and took students through acting and character development exercises.

“We want the entire family to come and experience the show and know that the community theater here is committed to recruiting all types of participation on stage, backstage and in the audience,” said Paden Phillips, a show director. “We want everyone to feel welcome here and be a part, in some way, of this growing theater.”

“Seussical the Musical” tickets can be bought online at www.haventheater.org. The five shows run June 22-25 with nighttime performances as well as Saturday and Sunday matinees. 

Cast members include Lucy Allen, McLain Boyd, Caleb Brown, Josh Brown, Connor Cagle, Jonah Clark, Hannah Junkin, Lucy Donegan, MiKyle Douglas, Gracie Gray, Rivers Gray, Jaci Jordan, Cadence Laird, Jackson Leggett, Jack Lowery, Abby Grace Matthews, Kristina Morse, Stevie Nevels, Makayla Russell, Tyler Shann, Jerome Walton Jr., MaryRhea Waterloo and Zephyr West.

Staff members include directors Paden Phillips, JoAnna Sproles, Tommy Sproles; producer Emily Waterloo; choreographer Laura McDaniel of Brookhaven Dance Academy; costuming Emily Waterloo, Ashley Douglas, Laura McDaniel and JoAnna Sproles; set design/construction Emily Waterloo, JoAnna Sproles, Ashley Douglas and Troy Douglas; lighting/sound Tommy Sproles. 

BLT’s annual Summer Drama Camp is for students entering first-seventh grades and will be July 17-28. This year the theater will produce “Jungle Book.” Visit the website for more information on the drama camp.

Story by JoAnna Sproles.