Children's favorites come to life in ALT Academy's 'Seussical the Musical'
By Chip Chandler — Digital Content Producer
The leads in Seussical the Musical have real names, but that doesn't matter a bit to their youngest co-stars.
To the tiniest cast members of the Amarillo Little Theatre Academy production, all that matters is that they get to be on stage with such favorites as the Cat in the Hat and Horton the Elephant.
"The little kids are in love with us," said Ethan Worsham, a 15-year-old Amarillo High School freshman who plays the Cat. "They are very amazed by our presence."
When I interviewed the leads before a recent rehearsal, I saw the hero worship with my own eyes. One young girl timorously interrupted my interview with Kayden Burns, the 15-year-old AHS sophomore who plays Horton, to pass along an important message: "I drew a picture of you, Horton."
Anna Bahn, the 17-year-old Tascosa High School senior who plays Gertrude McFuzz, said she was given three pictures of herself the day before that rehearsal. Kallie Kilburn, the 17-year-old AHS junior who plays Mayzie La Bird, got four.
"They are so cute," director Jason Crespin said later. "They don't know any of the older kids' names. It's just Horton, Gertrude, the Cat. ... I love when those itty-bitties are in the shows because they have their time on stage but they also are fans, idolizing these older kids."
It makes sense, though: The academy actors are bringing to life some of the most beloved characters in children's literature.
Seussical — which will be staged at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Saturday and Nov. 3 and 4, plus 2:30 p.m. Saturday, Sunday and Nov. 4 and 5 in the ALT Mainstage, 2019 Civic Circle — is a tuneful conglomeration of several of Dr. Seuss' most well-known stories.
Horton not only guards the abandoned egg of Mayzie, but he also protects the infinitesimally small Whos, including the active thinker Jojo (Colby Hurt). The action goes beyond the Jungle of Nool, too: Elements of Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas!, The Lorax, Green Eggs and Ham, Yertle the Turtle and Other Stories, McElligot's Pool, And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street, If I Ran the Circus, The Butter Battle Book and more make appearances in the show, written by the Tony Award-winning team Stephen Flaherty and Lynn Ahrens (Ragtime).
"Horton takes up the egg to make it feel not alone in the universe," Burns said. "He has two huge, huge things he has to protect throughout the show."
Both Burns and Worsham were hoping for the roles they eventually landed when Crespin first announced that the academy would revive the musical — which, 10 years ago, was the first collaboration between Crespin and Brandon Bellar, the academy's music director.
"As soon as (Crespin announced) Seussical, my first thought was 'Cat in the Hat! ... We share such an outward personality. I need to get this so I can have a blast'," Worsham said.
The mischievous Cat serves as the show's narrator and master of ceremonies.
"Oh gosh, it's been so much fun," Worsham said. "I'm getting to come here and take everyone on this journey."
Burns said he identifies with Horton's big heart.
"I feel like if I had the chance, I'd want to help so many people too," Burns said. "And I love his mantra: A person's a person, no matter how small."
That's more than just Horton's mantra, too.
"That echoes in the halls of the ALT Academy," Crespin said.
And it's evidenced by the way the older students treat those younger cast members who so admire them.
"I have seniors fighting for the chance to sit next to a 5-year-old kid because they like these little kids so much," Crespin said.
"It's so much fun," Kilburn said, "but it's a little stressful because you have all of these little eyes looking up at you, and you have to be perfect."
No worries there, Bellar said.
"Our academy kids are really great role models," he said. "I can totally understand how those little kids feel that way."
Tickets are $18 for ages 12 and older, and $15 for ages 11 and younger. Call 806-355-9991.