Getting musical and Seussical

Horton, portrayed by Gavin, searches for the one clover that is home to all the Whos in a colorful clover field. Below: Tessa, dressed in blue as Gertrude McFuzz, defends Horton to TV cameras as The Cat in the Hat, played by Ben, interviews her. (Photos by Stephanie Blair)

Lincoln City Playhouse opens first show

For those who love both silliness and musicals, Lincoln City Playhouse for Youth offers a perfect way to spend time this weekend: watching “Seussical Jr.” at the Beach Club in Lincoln City.

The director of the show, and co-founder of Lincoln City Playhouse, Karen Bonelli Sanquist has previously worked with the Roosevelt High School Theater Department and with Christian Youth Theater. After living on the coast for two years, she and her husband decided it was time to provide an avenue for children to consistently be involved in theater — all year, from ages 8-18 — so they created Lincoln City Playhouse. The playhouse has a nine-person board of directors and received its official status as a non-profit organization in September.

Launching just a few short months ago, the brand new youth theater company held classes all summer long with different themes each week — costumes, stage makeup, memorization and so on. Then, in August, LCP had auditions for its first show: “Seussical Jr.,” a shortened version of “Seussical the Musical” that is written to work well with younger actors.

The plot of “Seussical Jr.” calls a number of Dr. Seuss’s classic characters to the stage — including Horton the elephant, the Cat in the Hat and the Whos of Whoville — for a tale of confidence, community and the power of imagination. But the cast and their bonds with each other, and with their director, are what make this show shine.

“We have kids with different types of disabilities, from autism to one of the kids has dyslexia,” said Bonelli Sanquist. “It’s just (a matter of) being patient and knowing how to talk to them one on one, how to say to them ‘this is what’s expected of you.’ And the parents have been amazing in helping out.”

Tessa, who plays the part of the bird Gertrude McFuzz, has dyslexia and learned all of her parts by listening to the soundtrack, rather than reading lines over and over again. The parent of another cast member, who is on the autism spectrum, commented on how great it is to have a director who works with kids of all abilities in ways that work for them, individually.

The 18 children in this production have had just three days a week for seven weeks to rehearse, and their efforts show not only in the performance but in their interactions with each other — on and off stage. At their Monday night dress rehearsal, older actors helped younger cast members with costumes, blocking, lines and confidence.

On Wednesday, the cast performed for an audience of homeschool and private school students — 105 of them, to be exact. Bonelli Sanquist happily told the News-Times on Thursday, “It went great!”

The public premiere will take place tonight, Oct. 11, at the Beach Club in Lincoln City. The curtain rises at 7 p.m. and tickets, which can be purchased at the door, are $5 for adults, children are free. There will be two performances following that, both on Saturday, Oct. 12, at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m.

Auditions for the Lincoln City Playhouse’s next production, “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” will be announced soon on the “Lincoln City Playhouse for Youth” Facebook page. Children of all skill levels are welcome. Lincoln City Playhouse also welcomes children from all backgrounds and those with disabilities.