From AAPSNews Service
About 1,300 youngsters flooded into the Schreiber Theater at Pioneer High School this week to experience the magic of Dr. Seuss and the Pioneer Theatre Guild’s spring production of “Seussical the Musical.”
They came from elementary schools around the Ann Arbor district for a special, youth production of the show, based on the beloved works of Theodor Seuss Geisel, better known as Dr. Seuss.
Full productions of the show continue through this weekend.
Pioneer Theatre Guild Producer Susan Hurwitz, said the group has always brought plays and musicals to the stage with students in mind. “In all of our shows, we bring in a big, educational component,” she said.
The Guild works with Pioneer High Schools students to encourage a love of theater and also works with theater students from the University of Michigan who direct, get hands-on experience and receive a small stipend.
“These kids are great role models. They’re hard-working,” she said. High school students learn not only about on-stage skills, but also sound and technical aspects of theater production. “It makes me very proud,” she added.
Hurwitz said the Guild brings in local playwrights and historians to talk about the various plays, their setting and what life was like during that time. “We always try to make every show relevant – give them context,” she explained. “We try to make it well-rounded. They understand the roles they’re playing and the history of the times.
“You’ll always get a better performance.”
About the April 26 youth production of “Seussical,” Hurwitz said the Guild could only sell enough of the discounted $5 tickets for 1,300 students and their chaperones – and even more wanted to come. “We wanted children who don’t get to see musicals get the chance to see one,” she explained.
Within three days of putting out the notification about the youth production, Hurwitz said they had sold all of the tickets. As part of the event, she said, teachers were sent a list of characters so they could read Seuss stories to the children before the event.
The Pioneer Theater Guild has produced such popular children’s musicals as Beauty and the Beast, the Wizard of Oz, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory and High School Musical as well as plenty of adult fare including Carousel, Hair, Miss Saigon and Oklahoma. They have a full season of productions each school year.
The Guild involves between 200 and 250 students for each performance, Hurwitz said. She noted that the Pioneer Theatre Guild is the second-largest extra-curricular activity at the school.
One popular event put on by the Pioneer Theatre Guild is “Future Stars,” an American Idol-style event that brings youthful talent to the stage and allows the audience to vote on their favorites. This is the ninth year the guild has sponsored the event, which draws upwards of 5,000 people to Pioneer for the performances and finals. This year, the finals were sold out, Hurwitz said.
The music performed includes all styles and genres. “This is a way to bring diversity to our program,” she said.
Hurwitz did not grow up learning theater, but has always loved it, she said. She got her experience starting out many years ago with the Burns Park Players, eventually moving to the Pioneer program. She has an English degree from U-M and a master’s of social work degree. “Social work applies to theater,” she noted. “There’s a crisis a minute in theater.”
‘Seussical the Musical’
What: With lyrics by Lynn Ahrens and music by Stephen Flaherty and a book by both, “Seussical” brings to life favorite Dr. Seuss characters, including The Cat in the Hat, Gertrude McFuzz, lazy Mayzie, the invisible Whos and a little boy with a big imagination, Jojo.
Where: Schreiber Auditorium at Pioneer High School, 601 W. Stadium Blvd., at the corner of Main Street and Stadium Boulevard.
When: Shows continue on these days and times: Friday, April 29, 7:30 p.m.; Saturday, April 30, 2 p.m. matinee; Saturday, April 30, 7:30 p.m.; Sunday, May 1, 2 p.m. matinee
Tickets: Cost is $9 for students, seniors aged 65 and over and Pioneer staff; and $12 for adults. General admission seats are available at the door (cash or check only), or in reserved seats available online in advance.
Details: Visit the Pioneer Theatre Guild online or find them on Facebook and Twitter.