‘It’s a story about everybody mattering’

Eastern presents ‘Seussical’ at the McAleer Stadium

Special to The Sun/The Sun: Eastern students Shara Harding (Jojo), Maddison Allen (Mayzie LaBird), and Nick Vitale (Horton the Elephant) will be performing in Seussical in the stadium starting May 20. The cast have been rehearsing with masks on outdoors, and the set has been built bigger to be visible from the stands.

Eastern Camden County Regional High School will present its first outdoor showing of “Seussical” on May 20, 21 and 22 at 6:30 p.m. at the McAleer Stadium, with a rain date of Sunday, May 23.

“Seussical is fun. It’s a great story based on the works of Dr. Seuss, but it’s a story about everybody mattering,” said musical director Dr. Gregg Molotsky. “No matter how big or small you are, you matter.”

Presenting the show amid a pandemic has been an unusual experience in comparison to previous years. Auditions were held virtually in February rather than in person earlier on, rehearsals have been Monday through Saturday outside in the parking lot rather than inside in the auditorium, and the show is being held in May rather than in March.

The audience will sit on the field’s bleachers, able to see the stage completely. Molotsky looked to pageantry arts and marching bands for inspiration on how to direct the crowd’s attention. The show will rely on natural lighting to set the stage rather than programmable lights, and everything has had to be bigger to match the size of the field.

While other local schools have opted for livestreams, or limited in person audiences, Molotsky chose to move the musical outdoors because it will let the performance be “as close to a school musical as possible.”

“The outdoor limits are large enough that we can have a full cast, a full crew, a full pit.” he explained. “If we tried to do that indoors, we would run into spacing problems, because you certainly can’t space musicians 6 feet apart from each other in a pit, or have stage crew and actors packed into the wings.

“We could have tried to do something with canned music, but that doesn’t let you have the musicians,” Molotsky added. “We could have done something with less set, but then the kids who do stage crew cause they really love it don’t get a chance to do it.”

After its production of “Aida” was cancelled a week before opening last year, it was a relief for the school to have a spring musical this year. Although there was a fall production in between, “it was livestreamed and very segmented,”  Molotsky said. “The cast had to be split because there was an indoor limit of 25 people at a time, and the stage crew and cast didn’t interact at all.”

For the spring production, the musical director estimates about 60 students will be involved,  including cast, stage managers, 25 students in stage crew and 20 students in the pit orchestra.

Adapting to an outdoor performance has been a challenging but exhilarating experience for both Molotsky and the cast.

“At first, I was a little worried about it. It was certainly a different experience when Dr.  Molotsky told us we were doing it outside, but the biggest surprise is how much fun it’s been,” shared Ethan Kauffman, a junior playing the Cat in the Hat. “The show is perfect for being outside because there’s so much we can do with it.”

Melanie Ervin, a senior playing the Sour Kangaroo, has participated in theater since she was a freshman. She reflected on how this year compares with  previous seasons.

“It’s definitely a lot different,” she noted. “It’s a little tougher with the outside; it’s a much bigger area of space we have to cover. And the mask also. So … gaining like a new kind of endurance, especially for doing such a dance heavy show, has been really difficult, but it’s fun.”

Despite all the differences, students can now participate in theater again. For Kauffman, Ervin and others who have been learning remotely, theater was the only time they would see friends and people outside their families. Zoey Blackman, a freshman at Eastern playing Gertrude, has only known what high school is like during a pandemic.

“It’s been really weird, It wasn’t like a normal high-school experience, so it’s not what I was expecting at all, but it’s been fun. We made a lot out of theater,” she said.

“There’s so much more about it than a show about Dr. Seuss characters,” Kaufman added.

Tickets will be available for purchase later this week at eccrsd.booktix.com.