Would you like to see a show? Would you like your kids to go?
This month there’s a musical at Newsome High, Seussical the Musical.
The family-friendly show with well-known characters from books by Dr. Seuss will be staged by Newsome High School students in the auditorium at 6:30 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, May 8-10. Emphasizing its appeal to children as well as adults, the production will include youngsters from Bevis, FishHawk Creek and Lithia Springs elementary schools singing along as some of the Whos in Whoville each night.
“We want our theater program to be something the whole community enjoys,” she said during rehearsals in April. “That’s a key reason for involving the elementary kids, so their families can see what’s in store for them when they’re older, and it’s also why we priced our tickets lower this year.”
Admission at the door is $5, below what rival schools charge and below what Newsome has charged in previous years. During the three-night run of a non-musical play staged in November, nearly 400 people filled the 592-seat theater on a Friday. For Seussical, Vaughan wants a sellout.
“We’ve got the Cat in the Hat, Horton the Elephant, the Grinch – all these familiar characters,” she said. “And we have student actors who can really sing well.”
Many of those actors sing in award-winning choirs led by Jeff Bogue, Newsome’s chorus teacher, who’s directing the music for Seussical. Vaughan, who’s in her first year at Newsome, was familiar with Bogue’s work as her younger brothers were in his choruses before graduating in 2010 and 2011.
“This school has an excellent chorus program, so I knew we would have the singing talent,” she said. “But when we add the things that a strong high school theater program can bring, I think we can surprise people. We did some of that with our fall show.”
Noises Off was a comedy that required a rotating set as large as the Newsome stage could handle, with multiple floors, doors and staircases. Seussical allows for simpler staging, but Vaughan makes it clear she “doesn’t do simple.”
From 2005 to 2009, she was a student in the Riverview High School theater program run by Daron Hawkins, who was director of the Florida State Thespian Festival when he died last fall.
She went on to earn two bachelor’s degrees at Florida State University – one in theater and one in English Education – which helped her land the job at Newsome where she also teaches four classes of freshman Honors English.
Several of her English students have joined her theater activities, and some other students have committed themselves to the program as well. In addition to the fall play, the students produced a winter one-act show, Fate’s Thread, and several received superior ratings in adjudicated individual performances at the district and state competition levels.
“I had never done a show before this year,” said senior Mark Schumaker, who plays Gen. Ghengis Khan Schmidt in Seussical. But after having a great time in a lead role in Noises Off, he said, “I knew I wanted to do this one too.”
Students are involved in all aspects of the program, not only performing. Senior Katherine Lawlor, for example, won superior ratings for a mime performance but has filled the role of stage manager instead of actor for both the fall and spring productions.
“I love working with Ms. Vaughan,” she said, and the teacher returns the compliment for the student’s smarts and skills.
Other major roles in Seussical will be played by Tyler Peterson (Cat in the Hat), Dylan Dean (Horton), Phoebe Kurtz (Mayzie la Bird) and Jessica Koons (Gertrude McFuzz). Emily Allen will play Jojo, the primary Who – a role Vaughan played during her own freshman year at Riverview High eight years ago.
“I really didn’t think I’d be doing Seussical again at this point,” she said. “But then, I never thought I’d come back to this area to teach right away, either.”
For more information about the upcoming performace, e-mail Vaughn at firstname.lastname@example.org.