Bringing 'Seussical' to New Life AcademyThis was to be a quieter than usual spring for New Life Academy Bible and drama teacher Carole Brumley. Typically, the theatrical pattern at the Woodbury Christian school is to produce a musical in the fall and a drama/comedy/mystery in the spring. But Brumley’s students had other ideas.
By: Deb Elwood, Woodbury Bulletin
This was to be a quieter than usual spring for New Life Academy Bible and drama teacher Carole Brumley. Typically, the theatrical pattern at the Woodbury Christian school is to produce a musical in the fall and a drama/comedy/mystery in the spring. But Brumley’s students had other ideas.
Courtney Brumm, a NLA sophomore who portrayed “Annie” in the like-named production last fall, beat a path to Brumley’s classroom door.
“After Christmas, I went in to beg Mrs. B. to consider a musical for the spring,” Brumm said. “The energy and magic that a musical has just can’t be replicated.”
Marc Patnode, a.k.a. “Daddy Warbucks” in “Annie,” concurred.
“Musicals are the best of all worlds with acting, singing and choreography, too," he said.
Sophomore Sarah Robey echoed those sentiments.
“Musicals are joyful, meaningful, exciting and passionate,” Robey added.
The students’ pleas worked. Brumley decided NLA would tackle the daunting task of producing another musical this school year: “Seussical: The Musical.”
“Seussical’s” plot focuses on Horton from “Horton Hears a Who,” played by James Housworth, who tries to protect the people of Who-ville that live on a speck of dust. The muscial features characters and scenes from other Dr. Seuss books.
The Cat in the Hat (Josh Putnam) acts as a narrator throughout the show. Also featured are Gertrude McFuzz (Linnea Thraen), the Mayor of Whoville (Marc Patnode), Mayzie Bird (Liz Brumley), JoJo (Micah Cathey) and the Bird Girls (Tori Witt, Andrea Baranick and Paige Becker).
Overall, there is a large cast of characters in the musical, 53 in all. More than 70 students at New Life auditioned for these parts – a number constituting fully a third of the entire student body.
Brumley recruited help from NLA’s community of friends and parents in order to pull off “Seussical.”
NLA art instructor Marquette Bateman-Ek, along with Brumley, designed a set which allows vibrant character activity.
Bill Peterson, a former NLA teacher and head of drama productions, came from his Hastings home to construct the set, with the help of some NLA alumni.
“You have to have a bit of insanity, lots of passion and time beyond what you think it would take to do this," Peterson said.
The aptly-named “Drama Mamas and Papas” group supports the production in non-technical ways.
“Prior to the performance, we provide meals for the cast for the all-day rehearsals, sell tickets, advertise — including the designing and making of play posters — gather and/or make props,” said Jenny Lancette of the group. “This year we’ve added providing meals and/or gift certificates for the director and her family during the final weeks prior to the performance."
Lancette, along with co-leader Kristi Filipiak, calculated this volunteer group includes 60 parents.
Sarah Brown, a NLA parent and veteran “apparel specialist,” is charged with costuming the entire cast — with some characters wearing two different costumes.
“This show was hard, particularly since there were no guidelines,” Brown explained. “I used pictures from the Seuss books for the most part. I’ve been working on it since Christmas, online and on the phone, finding the proper costume for each actor.”
Brown’s job is also to find lost costumes, repair tears, store costumes appropriately, distribute/collect outfits during the performances and design and do hair and make-up — for which 12 parents and alumni helpers are enlisted. “This is a time-intensive labor of love,” Brown said.
Joel Nilius, NLA band director, is directly involved with “Seussical.” It was his task to secure 14 capable musicians to tackle the often-tricky music score, set in ever-changing keys.
“There is hardly any dialogue that doesn’t have music underneath, which means the musicians are either constantly counting rests or playing,” Nilius said. “The pit musicians must be spot on so the vocalists can get their pitches. Some will play multiple instruments throughout the performance to provide more color to the music.”
Nilius obtained instrumental personnel from a variety of venues: adult musicians from the New Life Church orchestra, accomplished student players and musical friends from the NLA community.
Lights, sound set-up and choreography were three other areas needing the time and attention of the director.
“There is an element of craziness that it takes to put on a musical of this magnitude,” Brumley said. “However, there are few things that are more rewarding than watching students as they work (together), rise above some of their own insecurities, are personally stretched and successfully complete what seems to be the impossible.
“I can’t imagine working with a finer group of kids than these, and more times than not I am the one who walks away encouraged by them. I am also humbled and amazed at the outpouring of parental support, without which this would be impossible,” she said.
“SEUSSICAL: THE MUSICAL”
• Presented at New Life Academy, 6758 Bailey Road, Woodbury
• Performances: May 14 at 7 p.m., May 15 (dinner theater) at 6 p.m., May 16 at 7 p.m. and May 17 at 2 p.m.
• Ticket prices: Adults, $9; children (18 and under), $6; and NLA students, $4.
• May 15 dinner theater prices: Adults, $20; children (18 and under), $17; and NLA students, $15
• For tickets: Call Carole Peterson at New Life Academy, (651) 757-4316, or visit www.newlifeacademy.org and click on the link on the front page. Tickets can be reserved there with payment the night of the performance.