Photo and story by Susan Mikula Campbell
Cleaners at Niagara-Wheatfield High School have been finding bits of primary-colored feathers and fluff strewn on the floor near the auditorium this week.
The puzzler of "Who?" will be served up as brightly as green eggs and ham next week as the school presents its annual musical, "Seussical"
The show, directed by teacher Andrea Letcher, runs Thursday to Saturday, March 22 to 24, at 7 p.m. each evening, plus a 2 p.m. matinee on March 24. All tickets are $7. To order tickets, call 215-3100. Any remaining tickets will be available at the door, but organizers point out that all four shows of last year's musical sold out.
"Seussical" is based on the beloved Dr. Seuss children's books written by Theodor Seuss Geisel.
"It's primarily based on 'Horton Hears a Who' and 'Horton Hatches the Egg,' but it's fun for the audience to try to pick out the other references," said N-W senior Brandon Minicucci, who plays Horton, the sensitive, caring elephant who firmly believes "a person's a person no matter how small."
These references come from many of the 46 Dr. Seuss books, ranging from "The Grinch That Stole Christmas" to "The Cat in the Hat."
The young actors fondly remember the books themselves.
"I just think it hits so close to home with all of us," said senior Kelsey Nielsen. "We all read them, whether with our parents, in our elementary classrooms or whatever."
The colorfully dressed cast features about 60 high school students and 25 elementary students. Also involved are 25 students in the pit band and 12 on crew, plus many parents.
They are all enjoying their parts in the lively production.
"This musical is actually what started me wanting to be in theater," said Minicucci, who first saw "Seussical" on a fifth-grade field trip.
He's been in all the N-W musicals during his high school years. This fall, he'll be off to Fredonia to study music education. In the future, he may be directing his own high school musicals.
As Horton, the elephant, he wears a comfy, pale blue pajama-like costume, complete with a buttoned trap door in the back and a tail, as well as an elephant headpiece.
"It was made by (volunteer) Joan Hoover - she is awesome," Minicucci said.
"In front of my friends, yes; in front of an audience, no," he said.
Dressed in a red tutu, tights and heels, Katie Blendowski is a dazzling Mayzie LaBird.
"She's very sassy and she's a lot of fun to play. I can create a lot of depth behind it," said Blendowski, who will attend Niagara County Community College to study musical theater and has her eyes set on Broadway for the future.
While Minicucci and Blendowski have participated in theatrical productions for years, Nielsen is a relative newcomer. She's been an N-W athlete, playing soccer and basketball and usually running track. This fall, she will be going to Niagara University to study secondary and special education.
Encouraged by her mom to improve her confidence, she tried out last year for "Cats."
"I had always sang for my church and stuff, and I thought, what the heck," she said.
She loved it, and this year is playing Gertrude McFuzz, "the bird with the one-feather tail," who consults with Mayzie about adding to her blue and white plumage.
"Gertrude loves Horton, but he doesn't notice me," Nielsen said.
"We're just adorable together," teases Minicucci.
The students promise an outstanding show.
"The cast is really coming together, all of us acting like a family is what's making it special," said Blendowski, who especially loves the ending when everyone gets together to sing "Green Eggs and Ham."
Without a doubt the youngsters and young at heart in the audience for "Seussical" will be having as much fun as all the characters on the stage next week. And to think that you saw it on Saunders Settlement Road!