From Horton to Whos: ‘Seussical the Musical’ to make Murray hystericalJul 03, 2023 12:43PM ● By Shaun Delliskave
Cast of “Seussical the Musical” started rehearsing in May. (Photo courtesy of Wendy Smedshammer)
Oh, the thinks you will think, when “Seussical the Musical” takes Murray Amphitheater’s stage July 28-Aug. 5. “Seussical” combines the magic of several popular Dr. Seuss tales, including “Horton Hears a Who,” “Horton Hatches an Egg,” and “The One-Feathered Tail of Gertrude McFuzz,” among others.
Wendy Smedshammer, the director of the production, said, “‘Seussical’ takes us into the world of some of Dr. Seuss’ most popular stories. The Cat in the Hat guides us into the Jungle of Nool, where we meet kind-hearted Horton the Elephant, JoJo the Who, lazy Mayzie LaBird, loyal Gertrude McFuzz and an assortment of other zany characters. The result is a story of courage, adventure, humor and heart.”
Bringing the colorful and imaginative world of Dr. Seuss to life on stage is no small feat. Smedshammer emphasizes the importance of the visual elements, stating, “‘Seussical’ is full of color, movement and life. Our set is bright and fun and not what you will be expecting. This show is interactive and innovative and will include things never before performed on the Murray Amphitheater stage.” With a cast of over 70 performers, the production will provide the audience with a large-scale experience of the good doctor.
Integrating characters and themes from various Dr. Seuss books into a cohesive production presents its own set of challenges and highlights. Smedshammer said, “Music is magic, and Dr. Seuss is magic. When you combine the music of the talented Stephen Flaherty and the characters and stories of Dr. Seuss, the result is a magical story that takes you on a journey through jungles and cities. The characters interact in a variety of ways and in a variety of places as they participate in Horton’s journey. And it all takes place on the Murray Amphitheater Stage, which will be transformed into a fun amusement park and boardwalk.”
“‘Seussical’ weaves a story of friendship, loyalty and love,” Smedshammer said. “These are connections that we are all longing for. This show is all about being inclusive and warm and accepting. As we watch Horton and JoJo struggle, we can see ourselves and our longing to be included. We can also see beyond ourselves and hopefully be more accepting and accommodating to others who may have ‘thoughts that are different than us.’”
With beloved storylines crafted by Dr. Seuss, audiences will find that “Seussical” refreshes memories of his children’s books. Smedshammer highlights one particular scene, saying, “After one too many ‘crazy thinks,’ JoJo is sent to military school with General Genghis Khan Schmitz. JoJo deserts Schmitz and vanishes in an explosion. JoJo is full of fear and uncertainty; it takes everyone to bring her back home, where her family rejoices in the reunion.”
The cast of “Seussical” features an ensemble of local performers, with Scott Urie portraying the mischievous Cat in the Hat, Max Zenbrunnen as Horton the Elephant, Cassidy Swenson as Gertrude McFuzz, and Rachel Bates as Mayzie LaBird. Ella Kern and Analise James double-cast the role of JoJo.
Behind the scenes, a team of skilled individuals works tirelessly to ensure the success of the production. Director Smedshammer has over 20 years of experience directing in the Salt Lake Valley and is the director for the Murray Drama Camps. Music Director Steve Broschinsky, head choreographer Heather Childs, and costume master Holly Henderson bring their expertise to create a visually stunning experience for the audience.
The unique outdoor setting of the Murray Amphitheater has been incorporated into the production design and staging. Smedshammer said, “Rather than the traditional jungle and tree setting, with the outdoor venue, we have some flexibility in incorporating unique elements. We are actually transforming the stage into an amusement park. The amphitheater has so many features that allow us to go high and to go low and to really utilize the great theater that we have available to us.”
“I hope that as people watch this production, they also will realize they are not alone, that they are important, and as they extend that realization to others, the world will be a better place,” Smedshammer said.
“Seussical the Musical” runs July 28-29, 31 and Aug 3-5. Tickets can be purchased online through murraycity.smashpass.com or at the Murray Parks and Recreation office (296 E. Murray Park Ave.). λ