Making of a musical

A behind the scenes look at “Seussical”


photo by Yasmin Haq

Actors sing “Here On Who” during rehearsal. This song is in the first act of “Seussical.”

It’s a Tuesday afternoon, and although school is dismissed, things are in full swing in the fine arts hallway. Rehearsal is until 6 p.m., and actors are in the choir room practicing with orchestra for the first time. Tech theater students are spread thin, doing whatever they can to make progress on the set.

Along with a couple others, sophomore Sumana Syed is up on a ladder, carefully brushing highlights onto the faintly outlined blue brick pattern section of the set. Every so often, she asks theater teacher Christine Mcclung if she is doing it right. If there’s too much highlight, the bricks will look like a baby blue mess, and if there’s too little, the audience won’t see the difference. The details are important.

This is just a small part of what goes into the making of the school musical: “Seussical.”

From auditions to finishing touches on the set, the preparation for “Seussical” has taken quite a bit of time, money and effort. “Seussical” will be performed in the auditorium on Dec. 14 and 15 at 7 p.m. and on Dec. 16 at 2 p.m.

“‘[Seussical]’ is getting there,” theater director Ryan Heitzman said. “We’re adding more and more every single day, and we’ll be ready for our show. It’ll be great.”

The directors chose “Seussical” as this year’s musical because it would appeal to the elementary school audience and has themes for an older audience. However, Mcclung said a challenge of choosing “Seussical” is that older students may dismiss it as too childish.

“There is that stigma with Dr. Seuss, in general, [that] it’s childlike, because we read it to our kids for storytime,” Mcclung said. “But it really does deal with some bigger issues like child abandonment and self worth. But it’s also presented in a PG enough way that younger audiences can intake it as well.”

The development of the musical began in September with auditions, which included a day for each singing and dancing and an additional day for students who received callbacks. After finalizing the cast, rehearsals for dance and music started.

“When I got a callback, I was [surprised] because the previous two years, as a freshman I did ‘Mary Poppins’ and last year I did ‘Footloose;’ I was just an ensemble member and I didn’t get a callback those two years prior,” junior Joseph Hoffman, who plays Horton the Elephant, said. “So I was really surprised, and it was really good. I felt like I needed that.”

Because of an overlap with the fall shows and concerts held by the other performing arts, a lot of tech elements, such as the set, could not be started until much later in the semester. However, theater students were able to work on smaller parts ahead of time.

“We started building platforms and storing them off to the side, but we’ve been working on costumes, makeup, props, [which] we can work on ahead of time,” Mcclung said.

The set was able to be put up soon after the Texas Thespians Festival in mid-November and ever since then it has been, as Heitzman puts it, “all hands on deck” to get things done on the tech side of the musical. The majority of the theater classes, including the acting classes, have had a hand in some part of the musical.

“Here at Hebron, our theater department really feels like no matter whether you’re an actor or techie or you’re not in theater at all, you can do something to help better the show,” Hoffman said. “I think that’s really cool that all these people are stepping up and taking charge and finishing the set because there’s always a need for people.”

Much of “Seussical” has been student driven. There are about 40 tech students who have participated in the making of the musical. For example, many of the set pieces, such as Cat in the Hat’s piano and Circus McGurkus, were built by students.

“The best part of ‘[Seussical]’ and those kinds of [opportunities] is that it can empower kids to be a part of it,” Mcclung said. “That’s one of my favorite parts about the job: letting kids make those choices and be a part of those choices.”

So far, the cost of “Seussical” has been around $10,000, and Heitzman expects it to cost more as they work to perfect the musical. Musicals can be expensive before they begin, because the troupe putting on the show is charged in royalties for the show so playwrights can get money. Then, there is the cost for renting costumes, lights, purchasing materials to build the set, paint, and much more.

“A lot of the time, companies charge based on how many people you’re putting in the seats,” Mcclung said. “In smaller theaters they charge less and in bigger theaters where you can fit more people they charge more. So it’s expensive before we even start casting the show.”

Although putting on the musical is expensive, the theatre directors hope they can make enough money off of “Seussicalto fund next year’s musical.

To the audience, “Seussical” is two hours of entertainment, but to everyone involved backstage and onstage, it’s countless hours of hard work and effort to make the production seem seamless.

“We don’t ever want the audience thinking about the set, or the light, or the props,” Heitzman said. “We want them to come in and be sucked into the magic of it. That’s our goal. That’s our objective. So a lot of people say, ‘I didn’t realize how much work goes into it.’ Well that’s the whole goal; we don’t want you to think about it. We want you to sit back and get swept up into the whole story.”