It’s all about the imagination: thinking up things that can’t truly exist and something so extraordinary that it is an escape from the real world.
The Baggy Pants Theater closes its season with Seussical the Musical, a play that incorporates the most famous stories of Dr. Seuss into one with memorable characters including Horton the Elephant, Gertrude McFuzz, Mayzie La Bird, the Whos of Whoville and the Cat in the Hat, the show’s host and master of ceremonies.
It follows the adventures of Horton, who hears a mysterious voice on a small speck of dust. As the story progresses, the audience is transported to a world that only Dr. Seuss could create, where anything is possible, from the Jungle of Nool to McElligot’s Pool.
“I love the story of Jojo and Horton,” said Stephen Halpin, artistic director of Baggy Pants Theater and director of Seussical. “These two characters feel very alone, and they find each other even though Jojo is really small and you can’t see her and Horton’s a big elephant, and so I love the theme.”
Halpin sees this as the heart of the entire storyline, where the two characters are connected even though they cannot see one another. Another important theme is acceptance of who you are and believing even when others go against you.
The cast has been rehearsing since the beginning of May, putting in numerous hours of work not only perfecting their roles, but also getting everything set up in time for opening night.
“Everyone’s volunteering and what I love about it is everyone comes and brings their own skills,” Halpin said. “We have folks who are performing on stage who painted the set; we have folks who are singing and dancing but are also choreographing, and they all do it because they love the theater, and that’s the base of our company — that we have a group of folks who just love to do theater.”
Cast member Joshua Eads-Brown, who plays Horton the Elephant, is thrilled to be able to come back to community theater after so many years of professional acting.
“It [Broadway] was a great experience but it’s also a completely different level of theater,” he said. “That’s your job, it’s not longer fun at that point … but with a project like this, you get to step back and rediscover the fun aspects of theater. It becomes a hobby again and that’s nice.”
Tess Muccigrosso, a UCF sophomore majoring in musical theatre, enjoys being able to work with older, more experienced actors for the first time since she typically works with those her own age.
“Working with Josh is really amazing because he knows what he’s doing and he’s in the Central Florida area,” she said. “Everyone knows who he is, so it’s like I’m getting a lot of professional advice from him, and that’s like the coolest part.”
Research is the most important part of putting together a show of this sort, according to the cast. They each spent a great deal of time studying their characters, from rereading the books they are involved in to watching the animated movies.
Robert DiGiovanni, an incoming UCF student in the fall with a theatre design major, said that the research aspect was what took up the most time and was most important to him for his character of the Cat in the Hat.
“He’s quirky, he’s loveable, he’s mischievous,” he said. “I tried to figure out who he is, what he does, why he does — figure out how he’s so matter-of-fact.”
DiGiovanni has always been a fan of Dr. Seuss and sees his work to be very inspirational, involving the power of imagination and education. He hopes that the audience will see that and leave with a sense of enjoyment and wonderment.
“What we try to teach in the show is a sense of think of anything,” DiGiovanni said. “Think of the impossible, and if you think that’s the way it should be, it will be that way. We’re trying to open everyone’s mind in the show.”
Audience member Madison Zavitc saw the show twice. She initially saw it years ago during a national off-Broadway tour but really enjoyed this version of the play, despite it being a bit different.
“I like the characters; they’re really strong at their parts,” she said. “It’s a different version than the original version, so it’s cute how they twist the junior version and the full show together.”
The Baggy Pants Theater is performing Seussical the Musical through June 17 at the Jewish Community Center of Greater Orlando. For more information and tickets, call 407-494-1622.