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BLTeens’ ‘Seussical the Musical Jr.’ a hit

Wherever you stand in New York City’s Times Square, you know you have “made it.” Broadway is the ultimate location for any actor to perform and for any fan to watch the most talented actors in the world perform.

Now, head south 1,249 miles to Brookhaven, Mississippi. On West Cherokee Street, in the Haven Theatre, kids from Brookhaven performed “Seussical the Musical Jr.” And prior to the first performance, they were getting ready to meet the original Horton from “Seussical.”

Kevin Chamberlin, who was nominated for a Tony Award for Best Actor in a Musical for “Seussical,” flew in from Los Angeles to help coach the BLTeens.

“A couple of times a year, I love to go visit casts of “Seussical,” said Chamberlin. “I feel kind of proprietary over it. I want to take care of the show. So many people do it and they don’t do it well, so I wanted to come help. I like to come visit and also work with kids. I love teaching. I had great teachers when I was young and so I want to pass on my wisdom to the young kids and tell them how to refine and better tell the story of “Seussical.”

Opening night sold out rather quickly. More than 300 people were in attendance, so chairs were brought in to help fill the need for those left standing. It truly was an exciting time for The Haven Theatre and fans of the arts. People were excited about the performance, but also excited about the chance to see a Broadway actor perform in Brookhaven.

Earlier in the day, Chamberlin worked with BLTeens to help them bring their characters more to life.

“Seeing him perform was great because he is an actual Broadway actor,” said Jack Lowery, who played JoJo the Who. “Just the way he carried himself helped me a lot.”

MaryRhea Waterloo wowed the crowd with her performance as The Cat in the Hat. With plans to continue her career in acting, meeting Chamberlin is something she will never forget.

“What he taught us was how to make the audience laugh. He really inspired us to go for our dreams. When he was younger, he did theatre and he pursued it and that’s what I want to do. It was really cool to hear that from him,” said Waterloo.

“He was so kind,” said Lucy Donegan, who played Gertrude. “I was so nervous because he’s a star and I thought we were going to have to act a certain way, but he didn’t expect that at all. He really helped me embrace my character. Everything he did was really helpful.”

Perhaps the most challenging performance of the night came from Connor Cagle, who played Horton. Chamberlin even credited Horton as being the hardest character he’s ever had to play because it’s a character in which the actor never leaves the stage.

“He certainly doesn’t play into the Hollywood stereotype, he was very nice. He taught me so much in a short amount of time. He was a pleasure to be around,” said Cagle.

The show put on by the BLTeens was tremendous. It was an absolutely stunning performance from the opening curtain to the final act. The cast came out for a final bow to a standing ovation.

Then Chamberlin and Lowery sang “Alone in the Universe” to the amazed crowd. At the end, another standing ovation was given to the duo for their performance. Chamberlin addressed the crowd, thanking everyone for their support and talked about how talented the BLTeens were. He urged everyone to support the arts.

“What I’ve noticed more so about Mississippi is the support of the arts,” said Chamberlin. “People support the arts here. In general it’s becoming less and less. That’s what surprised me the most here, the support of the arts in the community is so strong. It’s just beautiful.”

After his closing remarks, fans gathered for pictures with the cast as audience members made their way out of the theater. It truly was a special night for the arts in Brookhaven.

“I think it says a lot about Mr. Chamberlin, for someone like him to come down here and interact with people in the community and the kids here, he’s just a great person,” BLT Executive Director Emily Waterloo said.

“Seussical Jr.” ended the season for BLTeens. Up next for Brookhaven Little Theatre will be the Jungle Book Kids Camp. It’s a summer drama camp that will be from July 17-28. It will be 10 days of acting, costuming, staging and set design. The camp will also have crafts, games and snacks. For more information or to sign up, go to brookhavenlittletheatre.com.