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Squeals of delight could be heard throughout Hobbton High School’s auditorium Wednesday morning, and they weren’t just coming from the hundreds of elementary students assembled there. Some of those squeals were coming from teachers, too, joining in the fun as the stage was flooded in light — and color — as a musical extravaganza got under way.
The public will get its shot at experiencing the same kind of delight this weekend as the curtains rise again for “Seussical the Musical,” Friday, April 11 and Saturday, April 12, beginning at 7 p.m.
Director Angela Martin assembled a cast of what she calls the best high school talent from across the county for this musical, which involves teens from Hobbton, Clinton, Midway and Lakewood high schools, along with one student each from Hobbton Middle and Hobbton Elementary.
“This has been a huge undertaking, but the end result shows it’s been worthwhile,” said Martin, acknowledging that having a county-wide production had always been a dream for her.
“You know there are a lot of schools that don’t have theater, but I’ve worked with many of these students through Sampson Community Theatre, and I know the talent that is out there … there’s lots of it. To be able to showcase it through this production is wonderful.”
While the show, written by Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty, is centered on a compilation of all Dr. Seuss’ characters and their stories, Martin said that shouldn’t fool anyone into thinking that this is just a children’s play.
“Far from it,” Martin asserted.
“This is fast-paced, filled with music, bold costumes and larger-than-life characters … and more talent than you can possibly imagine. It’s something that everyone can enjoy.”
Martin calls “Seussical” a really great show that can be enjoyed by all ages.
That was evident Wednesday as laughter coming from the audience was easily recognized as a mixture of adult and child.
The current Sampson County Schools Teacher of the Year and oft-director at SCT has been working with the 35 to 40 cast members since January, helping them prepare their lines, learn the songs and choreograph their movements, all to make this production a one-of-a-kind event.
“This has really stretched these young people, but they’ve learned so much and they’ve worked so hard. You can tell it in their performances, too.”
Martin said the show was fast-paced, with 27 songs performed before the curtain falls. ” When it starts, it rolls, and you hardly even know you’ve spent any time watching it. It’s just that fast and just that good. It moves from one song to the next.”
And the costumes, Martin stressed, are amazing.
Bright oranges, pinks and purples delight the eye as the larger-than-life characters bounce from one side of the stage to the other, led by the ever-popular and infamous Cat in the Hat, portrayed by Lakewood’s Coleman Simpson.
“The story is really about Horton (portrayed by Hobbton’s Matthew Raynor) finding the Who and saving them,” Martin said, noting that it’s Simpson as the Cat who narrates the show.
“It’s really cute and it has a very powerful message, a great story line.”
That message — acceptance of oneself and of each other.
It’s been a chord that has struck those in the cast who have come together as a cohesive unit and not merely as students from different high schools. “This has given them a unified vision and it has brought them together as a team, one that works together to make each other better.”
You can see it as the cast gels on stage, feeding off one another and the audience.
“These are very talented young people and they are worth taking the time to come see,” Martin stressed, nearly imploring the community to come out to the high school this weekend to support the young people in what she calls a tremendous and rewarding undertaking.
“First of all, this is worth seeing. And secondly, it’s important to these kids to look out and see a good audience, to know they are being supported. They get energy from the audience as actors, but more than that they feel like what they do is valuable to others in this community when people take the time to come see them.”
It’s for those reasons that Martin would love to see the 640-seat auditorium packed to capacity.
“With the students putting so much into this, it would be very rewarding to look at and see no empty seats in the house.”
That’s what they saw Wednesday, with hundreds of children laughing, clapping and applauding, their squeals a testament to the kind of show they were seeing.
“Everyone loves it,” one teacher said as she escorted a little one down the aisle. “Adults and students … we all did.”