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ERHS theater program takes off

Junior Dylan Eike takes on the iconic role of the Cat in the Hat during East Ridge High School's production of "Seussical: The Musical" on Nov. 5 during dress rehearsals. Staff photo by Amber Kispert.2 / 2

East Ridge High School can add one more thing to its list of firsts this year -- the first ever school musical

"We only get one chance to start a program, to develop a curriculum and establish traditions -- we only get one chance to do it right," said

ERHS theater director Amanda Hestwood. "It's been the greatest opportunity and the greatest challenge of my life -- it's been overwhelming and stressful, amazing and beautiful."

"Seussical: The Musical" had its grand opening on Nov. 6.

"Seussical" is a collaboration of 18 Dr. Seuss favorites, such as "Horton Hears a Who," "How the Grinch Stole Christmas," "The Lorax," "Green Eggs and Ham," the "Cat in the Hat" and "One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish." Even though there are numerous plot lines intertwined, the overarching plot has Horton trying to protect the people of Whoville.

"I'm ready to see kids perform with an audience," Hestwood said. "I don't know if I'm ever at a place where I don't wish I had another day or wish I had another week but I knew really early on that we had a good show."

With "Seussical" being the school's first theatrical performance some students came in with little to no theater experience.

Adam Mickelson, who plays Horton the elephant, came in with little experience, but over the course of the play his talent has grown immensely, Hestwood said.

"I've never sang in front of anyone before, not even my own mother," Mickelson said. "The night before the auditions I was having a vicious internal debate with myself whether I should go out or not but this has been the most amazing thing I've ever been a part of."

Another student, Dylan Eike, who is playing the role of the Cat in the Hat, said being a part of the first production, and helping this program get life has been a rewarding experience.

"It was just great to start up a program like this," Eike said. "It's been incredible right from the get go."

Making it their own

In addition to being the ones on stage, ERHS students will be handling all of the technical aspects of the show as well as the ERHS band providing the music for the show.

"In the end, it's about turning the show over to the kids and letting it be their own ," Hestwood said. "This is something they can take and say 'This is my show.'"

Additionally Hestwood said another challenge that was unique to them for being a first time theater program was not having the many little things that they need for a production to work -- makeup, costumes, bobby pins, hairspray among others.

Hestwood said it was exciting knowing that she was going to be able to build the program from the ground up but all of the little things that they didn't have did prove frustrating.

"I've gotten so overwhelmed with the little things," she said.

East Ridge's 938-seat Loft Stage serves as the performance space. It has ideal conditions for the cast and audience, Hestwood said.

"You have an immediate response to how beautiful the theater is," Hestwood said.

Amber Kispert-Smith

Amber Kispert-Smith has been the schools and Afton reporter at the Woodbury Bulletin since 2008. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Minnesota. She previously worked as a reporter for Press Publications in White Bear Lake.

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