Norfolk Academy’s annual winter musical is quickly approaching, and the cast and crew are busy building the set, finalizing costumes, and rehearsing. Couple the pressures that arise when preparing for a large production with time away from campus thanks to numerous snow days and delays, this group appeared to have their work cut out for them. However, under the guidance of Mr. Dean Englert, Musical Director; Mr. Elbert Watson, NA’s Dance Master; and Ms. Caroline Bisi, Drama Director, they were able to pull off multiple preview performances for the divisions in spectacular fashion.
This year’s musical is Seussical, a colorful, upbeat production sure to delight the entire family. Ms. Bisi was more than generous to answer a few of our burning questions…
Tell us about Seussical!
Ms. Bisi: Seussical
is a fantastical and heartwarming musical created by Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty
. They are the award-winning team who created Broadway hits such as Ragtime, Once on This Island
, and Anastasia
. The story incorporates scenarios from 19 books by Dr. Seuss, but mainly centers around the tales of Horton Hears a Who
and Horton Hatches the Egg
, where Horton the Elephant endeavors to protect the people of Whoville, who live on a tiny speck of dust, while watching over Mayzie’s bird egg.
Additional stories include Yertle the Turtle, I Had Trouble in Getting to Solla Sollew and McElligot’s Pool, and it features famous lead characters, such as Gertrude McFuzz, The Wickersham Brothers, The Sour Kangaroo, Thing #1 and Thing #2, and the ever mischievous Cat in the Hat, who acts as our musical’s MC - briefly leaping into the action himself.
Why was this piece selected for the 2018 winter musical?
Ms. Bisi: It’s a wonderful ensemble piece, perfect for a large cast, which we always have at NA. It also contains a variety of different music and dance styles, giving each child the opportunity to stand out and to showcase their talents.
The show also provides a whimsical and touching story that translates to all three divisions within our school, as well as adults. It carries important themes about the power of imagination and friendship, and believing in oneself — all told in beautiful harmony.
How many grades are participating in the musical?
Ms. Bisi: We have over 100 students involved in this production, comprised of Royster & Tunstall students in grades 7 – 12, as well as one 4th grader, who rounds out our Whoville cast. The students work backstage under the direction of our professional adult production team to create the sets, props, and costumes, as well as design the lighting and sound. The students then take ownership and run the show themselves from the tech booth – it’s impressive to watch them!
Why should students participate in performing arts?
Ms. Bisi: Where do I begin? I could go on and on about the benefits of the arts in a child’s, and adult’s life. How those who participate in drama, dance, music, and visual arts display improved academic performance and personal well-being.
The arts provide our students with the opportunities to express themselves and to get out of their comfort zone and try new approaches — to take risks! Performing arts strengthen their self-confidence, interpersonal and presentation skills for job interviews, and public speaking arenas.
On stage and behind the scenes, our cast and crew create new friendships and find a sense of belonging to something bigger than themselves.
You have had a lot of snow days impact your rehearsal times! What are the students doing to prepare for the shows?
Ms. Bisi: Since this musical is more of an opera, there’s double the amount of songs to learn and dance routines to choreograph, so losing a solid week of rehearsal was a bit nerve wracking; that’s when Norfolk Academy students step up! We were apart for three whole weeks, after a holiday break and snow days, and when we all came back together to review, well, the cast and crew didn’t miss a beat!
Do you have any superstitions or rituals before a performance?
Ms. Bisi: Yes! Before each preview or show the cast, crew and adult production team gather together as a family. We hold hands in a circle and focus ourselves, taking time to breathe, to concentrate on what’s about to happen on stage or behind the scenes, and to appreciate each person’s role in the production. Mr. Watson then leads us in a prayer and then the seniors step into the circle to guide everyone in an energetic ‘mantra’…which we’ll keep as a cast and crew secret!
Do you have any funny anecdotes from something that has happened with the cast and crew during your practices?
Ms. Bisi: Most of our laugh-out-loud moments have come from watching the actors experiment in rehearsals with different physical mannerisms and vocal stylings to portray their characters. How does an elephant walk and speak? How would a bird squawk affectionately? How could a kangaroo appear sassy? How would you move if you were a monkey in a boy band? Observing the actors as they risk new methods and grow into their own, as well as listen to the crew then try to imitate them, is thoroughly entertaining!
We don't want to ruin any surprises, but can you tell us what we can expect to see during a performance of Seussical the musical?
Ms. Bisi: The reasons are as simple as Dr. Seuss’ rhymes…it’s colorful and fun! With haunting melodies, big dance numbers, gymnastics and circus acts, fantastical costumes, and imaginative sets and props, it's a thrill for your eyes and ears! Seussical’s whimsy and themes of self-belief and good fellowship create a joy-filled experience that is one to be shared with family and friends. Your cheeks will hurt from smiling!
I meant what I said and I said what I meant. You'll all adore 'Seussical' - one hundred percent!
Performances of Suessical are scheduled for the following dates:
Friday, February 16, 7:00 PM
Saturday, February 17, 3:00 PM
Sunday, February 18, 3:00 PM
Tickets are on sale now. Purchase yours today!