The story is about some people so small that for the creatures of Nool, they had no voice at all.
And about Horton the Elephant who had rather large ears then,
He was the only creature in Nool that the Whos could make hear them.
The Who’s very small world was but a speck of dust nested on top of a clover and after Horton met them he proclaimed over and over, “I will protect this small world and the Whos, one and all, because a person’s a person, no matter how small.”
Mesquitekids took to the stage bringing to life the books, rhymes and creatures of Nool who most of us have known since we were children.
Most of the cast were seasoned professionals in the Mesquite Kids on Stage Productions, presented by The Mesquite Arts Council. Susan and Jenny Bennett along with a host of volunteers and, of course, the children ofMesquitehave continued to bring forth musical theater involvingMesquite’s children for many years.
On July 12, 13 and 14 the musical was “Seussical Jr.,” co-conceived by Lynn Ahrens, Stephen Flaherty and Eric Idle and based on a myriad of Seuss characters from several books.
Most prominent in “Seussical, Jr.” were the stories of “Horton Hears a Who,” “Horton Hatches the Egg” (Jake Bennell plays Horton) and the “Cat in the Hat” (Mady Durbin and Hailey Bunker shared that role). But you were able to find many of the Seuss characters such as Yertle the Turtle (Katy Newman), The Mayor of Whoville (Todd BenellandTyson Wilson), The Mayor’s Wife (Sara Rappleye and Whisper Saltzman), Amazing Mayzie (Kira Dalton and Emerald Hall), Gertrude (Alayna Guyser and Taylor Marshall), Sour Kangaroo (Jaylee Whipple and Brittany Brooks), the Grinch (Andrew Green) and Vlad Vladikoff (Wyatt Hillius).
The MLN had a chance to speak to some of the cast members after the show’s last performance Saturday, July 14, and the consensus among the cast members was just as Wyatt Hillius described it, “A lot of fun!”
Mesquite Kids on Stage isn’t a production that is just work for the kids. The entire production took five directors, each focusing on different elements from musical and drama direction to choreography and assistant directors. Also involved in bringing this production to life were a technical staff of eight, a costume committee of nine, a scenery crew of 48, Rita Cox’s Virgin Valley Elementary School first-grade class and every parent who transported the children to rehearsal every day and helped practice songs and lines for the past two months.
Parents and volunteers, Leora and Gary Hillius, who’s son Wyatt played the part of the buzzard, Vlad Vladikoff said, “We’re so proud of Wyatt. This is his second year with Kids on Stage and he loves it. But it’s a lot of work and we’re glad it’s over.”
It took many people to get this production on stage and it was performed for what seemed like the entire community in the audience over the four performances. There is no doubt that Kids on Stage draws a crowd year after year, even from those that don’t have young children anymore.
Phillip Nehrenz was in the audience. “I enjoy watching the Kids on Stage productions even better than the adult productions (and my wife performs in the theatre),” he said. “They’re fun shows and the kids do a great job.”
Joshua Callan, who also did not have any children in the show, said, “I didn’t think I was going to enjoy a kid’s show but these guys were really good and the show was excellent. I remember these characters from my childhood, I was hoping for more from my favorite book, “Green Eggs and Ham” and I didn’t get a chance to see “Sam I Am” but the “Cat in the Hat” was awesome! That girl has got a lot of talent; she was so funny.”
The Cat in the Hat was played Saturday night by Mady Durbin, who studies Performing Arts in Las Vegas and has performed at Tuacahn in Ivans, Utah, as well as on the Mesquite stage.
Susan Bennett said she feels this is by far the best the Kids on Stage has done and added, “They’re darling. I love them all. But this was by far our best. This year we’ve had most of the experienced kids and the story was so much fun.”
Pat Reber said she has a similar opinion, “They’re wonderful, I love them, each one.” But she didn’t agree with Bennett that this was her favorite. She said, “I loved it but I miss my teeny tiny kids that I usually have, I’m looking forward to having them back next year.”
Some of the Mesquite kids have even made the crossover to working with the adults in the Virgin Valley Theatre Group. One of those is 12-year- old Katy Newman, who played Yertle the Turtle.
Last season Katy was involved in two productions with the VVTG, her first role was Vera in Neil Simon’s female version of “The Odd Couple.” She also performed the part of a young British woman during World War II in the VVTG’s “Murder Mystery.”
The MLN asked Katy what she felt was the most significant difference between the Kids on Stage Productions and working with the VVTG?
“I think the biggest difference is the energy level,” she said. “The younger kids have a lot more energy so it can be more chaotic -- not that the adults aren’t -- but there is a lot more of the kids.”
Katy also told the MLN, “I love performing all the time. I used to get really nervous before I’d go on stage but I’ve overcome that part, being with the VVTG, I’ve had some parts that called for a much older actress, the fact that I was able to pull it off at such a young age gave me so much more confidence on stage than I had just a couple of years ago.” Katy mentioned that while she loves performing in anything, she’s much more comfortable with the drama than she is with the music.
But judging from the audiences’ reactions, the people who attended were quite comfortable with all the Kids on Stage musical performances.