When Valley Youth Theatre in Phoenix announced auditions for its August production of “Seussical,” Jacquelyn Fuchs was eager to sign up. The Glendale 10-year-old had been waiting for her shot to perform with VYT at the Herberger Theater Center in downtown Phoenix.
“Performing on the Herberger stage has been a dream of mine,” said Jax, a fifth-grade student at Legend Springs Elementary School. “It’s such a beautiful stage.”
A fantastical, magical, musical extravaganza from Tony Award winners Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty, “Seussical” is on stage at the Herberger through Aug. 28.
When Jax was cast as Young Kangaroo, she was thrilled. Seventeen-year-old Kylee Calloway, a senior at Greenway High School, felt the same way when she saw her name on the cast list.
“Seussical” marks her debut performance with VYT.
“I auditioned for this show because of my love for theater and hope to get back in shows before I head to college,” said Kylee. “When Covid started, I stopped doing theater and this was the first opportunity for me to get back on stage.”
“Seussical” brings to life beloved Dr. Seuss characters including Horton the Elephant, The Cat in the Hat, Gertrude McFuzz, lazy Mayzie and Jojo, a little boy with a big imagination. The colorful characters transport audiences from the Jungle of Nool to the Circus McGurkus to the invisible world of the Whos.
“I want audiences to see that ‘Seussical’ is filled with joy and that the cast enjoys performing this show,” said 14-year-old Rowan Cross, a freshman at Mountain Ridge High School.
“Seussical” director and VYT’s producing artistic director, Bobb Cooper, said beyond being fun, the musical gets right to the heart of VYT’s mission and values. For example, a theme threaded throughout the show is, “The world can be saved by the smallest of all.”
“Our performers are young children and teens, but they have the ability to make a huge impact on the world around them,” he said. “Our goal at VYT is to inspire young people to be the best they can be. The themes of this show are right in line with that goal.”
For Jax, “Seussical” has provided an opportunity to learn important life lessons while also being part of a major production and spending time with friends.
“What I like most is the friends I have met,” she said.
For Rowan, the directors and production team have made all the difference.
“One thing that I love is the people working here,” she said.
VYT’s production has received high acclaim from audiences of all ages – and it’s certainly a cut above the average. Considered the premier youth theatre company in the Southwest, the directing team and cast have polished every last detail, from the acting and vocals to the choreography, set and costumes.
Said Cooper, “I love seeing the smiles on the faces of children in the audience when they see Horton, who believes so wholeheartedly that these Whos are on a speck of dust that he does everything he can to make sure they are taken care of. It’s a testament that we always need to try to help each other.”
VYT’s directing team and cast worked tirelessly to polish every last detail, from the acting and vocals to the choreography, set and costumes.
Karol Cooper is VYT’s resident costume director. She saw “Seussical” as an opportunity to bring the characters audiences know and love to life – right there at the Herberger.
“My goal was for the costumes to be a colorful splash on the stage,” said Karol Cooper, VYT’s resident costume director. “One of my favorite pieces in the show is Gertrude’s huge, growing tail. It’s a sight gag in the show and it makes me so happy when a piece of costuming makes the audience applaud or laugh!”
Kylee certainly recognizes the difference in a VYT show.
“I like how inclusive and supportive this theater is,” she said. “They offer professional-quality shows to anyone who puts in effort and determination.”
Added Jax, “VYT has the reputation of being the best of the best in theatre and it is an honor to be cast in one of its shows.”
Of course, Bobb is quick to point out it’s the cast of talented young performers who make VYT’s production of “Seussical” special.
“These kids are so special,” he said. “They are extremely gifted young performers, but they’re also working together with such kindness and consideration. This is making for an even better production that’s blowing audiences away.”
Tickets for VYT’s "Seussical" start at $16.50 and can be purchased at vyt.com/tickets.
IF YOU GO:
“Seussical” by Valley Youth Theatre
Through Aug. 28 at the Herberger Theater Center