Jordan Bemrose-Rust’s face was animated as she stood swaying to the music during a Friday night dress rehearsal of “Seussical the Musical.”
The Hermiston High School choir director, who’s also in charge of choreography, worked on a small-scale version of the popular Dr. Seuss-themed musical several years ago while teaching in Ione. She convinced drama director Beth Anderson — although it didn’t take much convincing — to take on the production.
“This has big dance numbers. I wanted to go big,” Bemrose-Rust said. “When you do choreography with 30 people, it’s a lot more grand.”
It’s been a team effort to produce “Seussical” — HHS band teacher Sean McClanahan is directing the orchestra pit and Kathy Vore is the technical director. And, the excitement is contagious — from student performers to parents and community members who have stepped up in lending a hand.
Anderson said “Seussical” is the most produced show across America for good reason. She referred to the music as “fantastically fun.”
“It’s just fun and upbeat,” said Alyssa Perkins, who plays the part of the Sour Kangaroo. “There are a lot of bright colors. It’s going to be appealing to all ages.”
The HHS junior credits Bemrose-Rust with encouraging her to step out of her comfort zone and onto the stage. While Perkins has been involved in choir during her high school years, this is her first involvement with musical theater.
Junior Kyle Ketchersid, too, is stretching his talents. During last year’s “Fiddler on the Roof” production, he played bassoon in the orchestra pit.
Although he says he’s not necessarily an obsessed fan of Dr. Seuss, Ketchersid has taken on the persona of The Cat in the Hat and The Grinch for the musical. He said he’s enjoying the peppy and upbeat nature of the performance.
Community collaborates in staging production
The costuming, Anderson said, adds to the whole experience. She’s especially thrilled with the creative talents of a pair of crochet artists.
“It’s such a fanciful show and it’s awfully expensive to come up with animal costumes,” Anderson said.
After admiring a hat worn by advanced theater student Kalliyan Rohrman, the director knew just what she needed for the show. The girl’s mother, Shanan Rohrman, had made the creation, which Anderson described as a unicorn headdress.
During a parent-teacher conference, Anderson said the talented mom offered her services. Rohrman and Sandy Stoneburner, Anderson said, crocheted the creative hats without patterns — working on them since November. Also, Anderson said other parents have been working on additional hats and the school’s art club is putting together some of the props.
“People will enjoy the bright costumes and positivity of the show,” Ketchersid said.
And then there’s the stage. Anderson said Vore, along with her husband, Sam, have spent countless hours building the set, which includes platforms that divides the two worlds. After helping with the last play, Vore said the district hired her to serve as technical director for drama productions.
“I consider that my audition,” she said with a laugh. “It’s just so much fun to be a part of a big collaborative effort.”
In addition to 14 students, there are four adults in the orchestra pit. Having the seasoned performers, McClanahan said, offers students an opportunity to glean additional insight. And, they contribute to the fullness of the sound.
“Also, with more parts it adds more energy to the performance,” McClanahan said. “The music is very entertaining. It’s pretty whimsical.”
Bemrose-Rust also sings praises for Margaret Wetterling. The pianist, she said, has played an integral role as an accompanist — not only for “Seussical,” but also choir concerts and past musicals.
Brittany Sloan, a four-year veteran of the HHS stage, said the energy has been amazing and everyone has been working incredibly hard. Sloan, who plays the role of Mayzie LaBird, along the rest of the cast and crew are excited about staging the production. They are hopeful it will draw a packed house.
“It’s geared towards youngsters but it’s still pretty fun for everyone,” Ketchersid said.
“I do not like green eggs and ham,” she said quoting from the script. “How could you go wrong?”