MAKING THE ROLE HIS OWN: With senior Sydney Safarik (The Cat in the Hat), sophomore Milo Slimi (JoJo) performs It’s Possible (In McElligot’s Pool), a musical number where the Cat in the Hat encourages JoJo’s powerful imagination after his parents shut down his wild “Thinks.”
MAKING THE ROLE HIS OWN: With senior Sydney Safarik (The Cat in the Hat), sophomore Milo Slimi (JoJo) performs “It’s Possible (In McElligot’s Pool),” a musical number where the Cat in the Hat encourages JoJo’s powerful imagination after his parents shut down his wild “Thinks.”
Chloe Lewcock

‘Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened.’

Whimsical spring musical, ‘Seussical’ gives theatre students a chance to stretch beyond their prior experience, build community

With shows on April 4-7 and 11-14, Seussical: The Musical encapsulated a variety of appearances from Dr. Seuss characters brought to life on stage. The whimsical extravaganza took months of planning and rehearsing, as well as set building, costume designing and behind the scenes work to get the show audience ready. 

We are proud to present our collection of photos from the Seussical production as this week’s Tuesday Top 10 photo essay.

LEADING THE CHARGE: Junior Robin Kulhanek (General Schmitz) explains the stakes of the Butter War to sophomore Milo Slimi (JoJo) when the young Who is sent off to military school for thinking “too many Thinks.” As General Schmitz, Kulhanek embodied an exaggerated and comical antagonist figure, who stood on his own more than the junior’s previous MacTheatre roles. 

“This has definitely been the role I’ve had to do the most acting in,” Kulhanek said. “Most of my other roles were either ensemble or just a solo.”

Along with the role’s narrative independence, Kulhanek had to tap dance in one of the numbers, an area of choreography with which he was previously unfamiliar. Even with the newness of the acting and movement, Kulhanek says that General Schmitz is a highlight in his musical theater career. 

“It has been the role I’ve had the most fun in,” he said. “I really enjoyed playing into the cartoon part of my character and being able to improvise stuff on stage.” 

Kulhanek felt that overall, the positive energy and morale from the cast backstage and in rehearsal allowed Seussical to run smoothly. 

“Everyone just had a good time backstage,” Kulhanek said. “It made the rehearsal process and the show run so much easier and fun to do.”  

Caption by Francie Wilhelm. Photo by Chloe Lewcock.

HORTON DOESN’T HEAR: Sophomore Owen Griffith (Horton) stares into space, completely disregarding senior Ava Deviney (Gertrude) singing to him.

“Gertrude sings to Horton about how much she cares for him, but he can’t hear it,” Griffith said. “The moment reveals Horton is so insecure in himself that he can’t even see he is not alone.”

Caption by JoJo Barnard. Photo by Chloe Lewcock.

MAKING THE ROLE HIS OWN: Senior Sydney Safarik (The Cat in the Hat) and sophomore Milo Slimi (JoJo) perform “It’s Possible (In McElligot’s Pool),” a musical number where the Cat in the Hat encourages JoJo’s powerful imagination after his parents shut down his wild “Thinks.” The role of JoJo was one that Slimi coveted from the start of Seussical’s production, and he spent weeks preparing for the audition. 

“I was gunning extremely hard to get JoJo,” Slimi said. “When I was cast for JoJo, I was through the roof, although I was nervous at first because I typically don’t do lead roles. I was worried I might not do it justice or be able to memorize all the lines.” 

Much of Slimi’s initial anxiety was surrounding others’ expectations of his performance and identity. 

“I wasn’t sure what people were expecting of me, especially as a transgender student,” Slimi said. “People’s perception really takes a toll on how you see yourself. I tried to do the role for me rather than others and that mindset really boosted [my] confidence.”

Another way Slimi boosted his confidence was by taking aspects of his real life and personality onto the stage. 

“Finding similarities between me and JoJo’s character was a big help in making me feel more comfortable in the role,” he said. 

While comfort is always crucial in giving a good performance, it especially helped Slimi in the acting department, as it is a relatively new area for him. 

“I’ve been dancing forever, and singing has always been a hobby, so I always thought acting was where I lacked,” Slimi said. “But I surprised myself a few times, and it really felt good to dig deeper into that part of musical theater that I hadn’t focused on so much in the past.” 

He had to “dig deep” from the very beginning of the show, as the first scene opens with JoJo talking to himself on stage before the Cat in the Hat appears as the narrator. 

“Acting is hard when you don’t have another person to react to,” Slimi said. “It took me some time to get over the initial insecurity of being the only one on stage at that point.” 

When he did have other actors to react to, Slimi did so while forming positive and memorable relationships. 

Seussical is such a silly and fun show,” Slimi said. “Getting to let loose really helped me to be more open, make new friends and let parts of my personality come through that I wouldn’t have in the past.”

Caption by Francie Wilhelm. Photo by Chloe Lewcock. 

SONG OF THE WHO’S: During the opening weekend of Seussical, the Who’s of Whoville plead to Horton the Elephant who just placed a dust speck, containing their tiny world, on a clover to help them protect their tiny planet. 

Sophomore Isadora Lang, who plays the Mayor’s wife, thought Seussical ran really smoothly overall. 

“I’m somehow sad it’s over even though it took up so much of my time,” Lang said.

The time commitment, Lang acknowledged, was the hardest part of the production.

“Keeping up with everything else that is not part of theater was the hardest part of being in Seussical,” she said. “For example, my family was in town for the eclipse, and there were band trips going on, but I had to keep my main priority performing and rehearsing for Seussical. Although it’s a very fun process, it is definitely a time commitment.”

One specific memory that sticks out to Lang about the Seussical production was the times getting ready in the dressing rooms before shows.

“I loved hanging out with the people who shared my dressing room,” Lang said. “I had a lot of fun, whether it was doing makeup together, warming up together, or hyping each other up.”

Most characters also had an understudy, who got to perform during a run of the show. Mrs. Mayor’s understudy was sophomore Mia Gonzales, so bonding with her was something that Lang also enjoyed and was grateful for. 

“It was so much fun to see someone else interpret the character Mrs. Mayor, and I was so excited to get a different perspective of the show from the audience and backstage,” Lang said. “It was also so cool to work with Mia and get closer friendship-wise, and I was glad to be able to bond over the show with her.”

Caption by Maya Tackett. Photo by Chloe Lewcock.

BIRD GIRLS: During rehearsals in the recently opened Dance Arts Building, feshman Elodie Bollich and Berit Ellwanger perform as the Bird Girls in “Horton hears a Who” from Seussical. Bollich said at the time that she was happy with the way the show was progressing. “We’re definitely in a good spot right now.” Bollich said. “You can really see the production coming together.” Bollich said that being a bird girl helped her create new friendships and grow her talents. “I have enjoyed getting closer with the other bird girls in rehearsal.” Bollich said. “I think the most beneficial has been the dancing that the role requires. It has helped me become a stronger dancer.” Caption and photo by Katie Martin.

SEUSSICAL STORMS THE STAGE: Senior Sydeny Safarik plays the role of Cat in the Hat opposite senior Ava Deviney’s Gertrude. The Cat in the Hat also serves as the narrator for the show. For Safarik, the role was a unique opportunity because through each performance she gets the chance to learn more and more about the character. 

“I love that with every performance I am able to add to my character,” Safarik said. “I have so much fun, and going off the audience’s reactions really helps me connect to the livelines of this silly show.”

While typically the spring musicals at McCallum have had elements of both humor and seriousness, according to Safarik this show especially allowed her to come at the role with more energy. 

“‘The Cat in the Hat’ is unlike any other role I’ve ever done, and to be honest I was a little intimidated at first,” Safarik said. “I was nervous I wouldn’t do it justice because I had never been so physical with my acting of a character.”

Getting cast as the Cat in the Hat was unexpected for Safarik, but nonetheless a challenge ready to be accepted, and she prepared to give it her all. 

“It is usually played by a man, and I did not think I was the right fit,” Safarik said. “But instead of letting it get me down, I threw myself into it trying as hard as I could to understand how to tell the story, and have as much fun with it as possible.” 

Safarik has been appreciative of the experience the musical has provided her. 

“I feel really proud of how much my confidence has grown in my version of this funny feline, and I am so grateful at the opportunity to stretch myself as a performer,” Safarik said. “I also have had the immense privilege of working with some of my incredibly talented cast mates while putting together one of the silliest musicals I’ve ever done.” 

The opportunity meant more to Safarik because it’s her last chance to perform in a McCallum show before she graduates. Because it was her last show, she put her all into the performance.

“Doing this musical has been very special for me,” Safarik said. “I’ve been able to reflect a lot about how far I’ve come as a performer since our wacky freshman year, and playing one of the main leads for my final performance has been wonderful.” 

Caption and photo by Chloe Lewcock. 

TOO NOOL FOR SCHOOL: Tech week for Seussical during the last week of March was a critically important step in the process of bringing the show to life because it brought cast and crew together to create the Jungle of Nool and The Town of Who on the big stage for all the audience to see on opening night and beyond.

“It’s so much fun when you [make props],” prop manager Lilli Gonzales said. “For instance, we have a wacky piano that was difficult to make but so fun in the end.”

But Katie Wiseman, who was also part of the props crew, explained that meeting and overcoming challenges is what makes tech theatre so much fun.

“It’s fun to make friends and have control of certain things,” Wiseman said.

From the lights to the costumes to the set to the props, being a part of the crew was just as important as being a part of the cast. Costumes, for example, were an essential part of Seussical.

Costume designer Willa Fischer and the rest of the costume crew relied on their talent and interest in fashion design to create large costumes with a lot of bling for the colorful production.

“I love the community about being in tech because there is no competition backstage,” Fischer said. “Everyone is so friendly.”

Caption and photo by Campbell Epperly.

DEEP IN THE JUNGLE: The Jungle Ensemble for Seussical performs during the song “Circus McGurkus” on the second Friday performance. The ensemble’s dance choreography added emotional elements to the show, which furthered the story.

Freshman Paityn Jones, a member of the ensemble, said that being in Seussical was a learning experience for her and for the rest of the cast. Being a part of a large ensemble can be difficult because all members need to be in time with one another when singing or dancing, but the group was able to stay in time and work well together.

“At first we were all over the place with timing,” Jones said. “It was kind of hard learning and memorizing all of the dances that we were in, but during our brush-ups we all got the counts together.”

Overall, Jones said that she had a great time being a part of the ensemble and that it provided the group with an opportunity to grow closer to one another.

“We didn’t know each other at first,” Jones said. ”But overtime, especially during tech week, we became way closer. The atmosphere was always positive and we never had a bad time together.”

In the future, Jones is eager to participate in new shows and expand her theatrical skills and knowledge.

“I look forward to the new shows that will be made and being able to branch out,” Jones said. “I’m excited to be able to play all kinds of characters and grow my acting skills.”

Caption by Evelyn Jenkins. Photo by Sophia Manos.

IN THE JUNGLE: Junior Katelyn Gerrie, freshmen Franny Scott, Campbell Epperly, Elora Clarke, and Brooke Zarnikau perform “Amazing Mayzie” during rehearsals for Seussical. Scott said that being in the ensemble was fun because of all of the numbers they got to participate in. “In the “jungle ensemble,” we do a lot of dancing.” Scott said. “They’ve been really challenging but also really rewarding.” At the time, Scott reported that the cast was doing really well and had learned almost all of the show. “I’m really excited for the shows” Scott said while the shows were still on the horizon. “I think because of all the work we’ve put in, they will be really rewarding.” Caption and photo by Katie Martin.

AMAYZING MAYZE: Freshman Izzy Stern performs as one of the bird girls, singing the song “Amayzing Mayze.” For Stern, the long process behind Suessical was fun, as this was her second musical she performed in. 

“It was a great learning experience for me,” Stern said. “It is always so amazing to see the whole show come together during tech week when you run it with everyone together for the first time.”

Stern auditioned for the roles of Mayze, Gertrude and bird girl, and ultimately was cast as one of the bird girls. 

“You sign up for the audition and prepare a one-minute cut of any song that you like and feel fits the musical,” she said. “I sang ‘There’s a fine, fine line’ from Avenue Q. After you audition, the directors decide if you are called back for any roles or not.” 

Working hard on opening night, Stern felt the cast did a stellar job. 

“Everyone worked together surprisingly well, but I think we all really came together through the last weekend.”  

Lasting eight shows, Stern was ready for the end. 

“My favorite part was the finale,” she said. “Because there was so much energy from the show, and it is such a fun dance.” 

Caption by Priya Thoppil. Photo by Sophia Manos. 

MUNOZ/MAYZIE MAKES A MOVE: Senior Chamila Munoz is lifted across the stage before her solo number.

“This is the first moment when I’m actually on stage right before my big song,” Munoz said. “This is right when I first enter and the music has just changed from Gertrude’s song to mine and everything is so different, and it’s meant to show the amount of contrast between our two characters.”

Munoz played Mayzie La Bird, a character who brought a mix of personalities to the stage. 

“She’s got so much confidence; she’s got so much moxie,” Munoz said. “But she’s also this really heartbreaking character because there is a certain point where she gets saddled with this egg and she doesn’t want it so she gives it up.” 

This juxtaposition in Mayzie’s character was initially a challenge for Munoz to portray. 

“At first I was having a hard time connecting because I was like, ‘She just sounds like a bad bird,’ but I realized she is just doing what is best for the egg because she realized she wouldn’t be able to be a good mother,” she said. 

For Munoz, morphing herself with Mayzie’s flamboyant personality became easy after understanding the struggles her character goes through. 

“A lot of feedback I was getting was that me and my character weren’t that different, but it’s hard because I feel like my character only has her confidence at the expense of others putting others down to lift herself up,” Munoz said. “For a while, I was only finding one note to play her, but I realized she has a lot of depth. She’s quite insecure at her core, and that is where all of that comes from initially, it was important for me to find that dimension.”

Despite the challenges it took to accurately capture her character, Munoz enjoyed her time in Mayzie’s feathers.

“My favorite part was that dress,” Munoz said. “I kind of also had what we called a ‘princess track’ where I’m not on stage a lot, but every time I am on stage, it is important that I am there, which was really nice because I got a lot of downtime but also whenever I was on stage it was so fun.” 

Caption and photo by Naomi Di-Capua.

CLIFTON’S CURTAIN CALL FROM BEHIND THE CURTAIN: Senior Marshall Clifton holds a prop as he fills in for another dancer during a rehearsal of “Seussical” number “The Military”. “Being assistant director meant helping out where I could,” Clifton said. “On that day it meant filling in and being a body so that we could more effectively stage the number with the correct amount of people.”

For Clifton, the opportunity to be an assistant director on “Seussical” was something the theatre major hadn’t previously experienced.  

“I am majoring in theatre in college, and I feel like as a senior I have had my time on stage or in the spotlight and I’m so grateful for that, but I felt like It was beneficial for me to be on the other side of the table, offering my perspective as a creative and bring my experience with mac theatre to such a big show,” Clifton said. 

As a result, Clifton spoke to musical director Robert Carrasco to ask for a backstage leadership role.

“When ‘Sweet Charity’ [MacTheatre’s fall musical] wrapped up, I was thinking a lot about how I wanted to be involved with ‘Seussical,’ so I spoke to Mr. Carrasco asking if he would be interested in having an assistant director,” Clifton said. “He said yes and said that he would love to have me on board.”

Long story short Clifton was able to serve as assistant director providing feedback and artistic insight. 

“I’m so grateful to Mr. Carrasco for letting me have so much creative input on the show,” Clifton said. “When I was there it [Clifton’s job] ranged anywhere from playing the music for choreography rehearsals off a computer or blocking scenes or taking smaller groups of people to go and work little moments for acting or choreography. 

What Clifton valued most, however, was the ability to have his input truly valued. 

“A lot of my duties just came down to offering a different perspective,” Clifton said. “Coming into a scene or a number that has already been blocked or staged and saying ‘Well how about we do this?’ and offering another perspective as a problem solver.” 

Overall, Clifton walked away from his assistant director position with unforgettable memories and lessons learned. 

“There was a day where about a week before tech week,” Clifton said. “We were in the dance building staging a number, and we just needed to look at that number. We split up and worked on different things in the same room or different rooms. I remember at the end of rehearsal, we were on a real time crunch; everything felt like it was moving so quickly, but we took a step back and ran it from the top, and all the little cleaning and specific moments made it feel so alive and I was so proud of all of us.”

Caption by Naomi Di-Capua. Photo by Katie Martin.

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