Beacon’s special production of ‘Seussical’ highlights identity, family

Beacon’s special production of ‘Seussical’ highlights identity, family

The cast of “Seussical the Musical” will present their show at Beacon Charter High School for the Arts, Main Street, Woonsocket, Thursday, May 23 through Sunday, May 26. For tickets, visit beacon.booktix.com.

WOONSOCKET – Eleven months ago, Jay Leclair sat across from me at a coffee shop on Mineral Spring Avenue and asked if I’d be interested in co-directing a production of “Seussical: The Musical” at Beacon Charter High School in Woonsocket the following May.

I didn’t have to think too long or too hard. “Seussical” is a special show for me. I’ve performed in it twice, the first time with my three children. So I happily said yes, and looked forward to our first production meeting in February.

The show rolls many of Dr. Seuss’ books into an immersive musical theater experience. The Cat in the Hat serves as emcee and chief instigator in a story featuring Horton the Elephant, the Grinch, Yertle the Turtle, the Whos and more.

For Leclair, the show blends in perfectly with Beacon’s season focus on identity and family.

“The messages in Seuss’ works have always been wonderful morality lessons,” he says. The show features the best of those stories, turning them into “a piece of theater that explores personal identity and the concept of family as something beyond just blood relation.”

Auditions were held in late February, for both vocal and dance performances. Student actors needed to be able to do it all.

“(Though) it’s a school for the arts, Beacon does not have a music or dance program,” says Meaghan Bruneault, our choreographer. “Yet these kids do a full-length musical every school year. That’s no small feat.”

The decision was made to cast 16 performers, six principals and the rest ensemble.

“This production is one that usually puts a ‘cast of thousands’ on the stage,” says Leclair. So, the Beacon artists “are highly challenged as an ensemble to switch characters and truly know every nuance of the show.”

At the first read-through in mid-March, I was impressed with how well some of the performers knew the show. Leclair said they’d been preparing, getting familiar with the script and the music, since Beacon’s season was announced at the end of the prior school year.

Last Tuesday, after weeks of rehearsal, we had our first stumble-through of Act 1. It’s called that because no one truly expects perfection the first time all the elements come together. When it was done, Leclair and I had the same thing to say: “That was amazing.” There were a couple of little mistakes, and the end of the act needed some extra work, but they’d only done that part once before.

“I am truly in awe of these kids, of their work ethic, and of their talent,” says Bruneault. “It makes our jobs so much more enjoyable when you have a cast that puts their all into the material. It really is amazing to witness.”

As they warmed up for the stumble-through, circling around our music director, we watched a group of kids that had truly become one. They were loose with each other, bopping and dancing along as they sang the songs, high-fiving each other for hitting a particularly hard note. They exuded confidence, enthusiasm and a real “we’ve got this” attitude.

As a school for the arts, theater is truly Beacon’s sport, but the show is not everything. Leclair sets priorities for the students: “Personal health, family obligations, academics and lastly, the show.”

Bruneault likes that these students have the chance to attend a high school focused on the arts.

“We didn’t have that option when I was a kid. They are getting experience at such a young age,” she said. “We really push them to strive for greatness by placing professional level expectations on them. And they rise to it every time.”

As the stumble-through ended, there were huge smiles all around. Leclair was glowing.

“Their work is astounding. To see the students here band together and work this hard on this show is wonderful,” he said. “When you watch this show, you will enter the world of Seuss and be taken on that tour by actors who have brought a professional level of work to their performance.”

And that’s what this program is all about.

The Beacon Theatre Workshop presents “Seussical: The Musical” May 23-26 at Beacon Charter School, on Main Street in Woonsocket, across the street from the Stadium Theatre. Seating is limited, and tickets can be purchased in advance at beacon.booktix.com .