October 18, 2021

Seussical Comes To Topanga Elementary, May 2 to 4


The stage is littered with Whos. They are everywhere, from the mayor and his wife to the tiniest Whos of all. Here comes an elephant and, look out, or those monkeys might throw bananas at you. The jungle animals are growling and the Bird Girls are preening their plumes. Is that the Grinch? Why do those kangaroos look so grumpy? And what is the Cat doing wearing a hat?

The amazing answers can be found on May 2 through 4 if you attend the Topanga Charter Elementary School’s production of the wild and wooly musical Seussical.


Seussical Comes To Topanga Elementary, May 2 to 4

Leads: (l-r) Yves D'Orsi (as JoJo), Eamon Shea (as the Cat in the Hat), Kayla Torrey (as Mayzie La Bird), Allie Torrey (as Mrs. Mayor), and Zachary Bush (as Horton the Elephant).

No less a critic than Horton the Elephant, played by Zachary Bush, comments, “It’s a spectacular play! It covers important issues like friendship, loyalty, and being yourself.” He goes on to quote knowingly a line from the play, “A person’s a person no matter how small.”

Gentle and patient director Jill Williams should be proud to have provided the students with such a nuanced and fun choice for this year’s production. When asked what possessed this mother of two to take on the task of mounting Seussical, originally a Broadway show based around a vast array of Dr. Seuss characters and stories, she responded, “I guess I was first inspired by Billy Portman’s production of Seventh Son two years ago. My son Dylan was in it and I watched the older kids interacting with the younger ones. I realized how special it is that the children got to work together creatively in such a positive uplifting environment. And, of course, Billy made it look effortless.”

Helping Williams in her “team effort,” as she calls it, are producer Sue Schmitt; Cheryl Torrey in duel roles as vocal director and choreographer; and Jackie Henderson, also coaching vocals. Connie Gott serves as the dedicated stage manager (I wouldn’t want to mess with her), Susan Clark is on special Who detail, and Kathie Gibboney appears as an appropriately wacky acting coach. Also lending a hand is special guest coach Jane Sibbett. The talented Zoe Hay, Vicky Routs and Nina Woodson created the fanciful costumes; Nicole Weerman, Akemi Smith, and Monica Brunt are responsible for the enchanting and colorful set. Teal Brogdena and Tim Pershing will be handling the lighting. Numerous other assistants have stepped in to help make the magic, among them, Piper Norwood, Amy Walker, Cassie Alter, Michelle Hagn and Ernie Devereaux of Topanga Lumber.

Williams is grateful to everyone but most appreciative of her astounding cast of more than 60 Topanga students. Team Seussical is to be applauded for the spot-on casting selections they made. Of course, it all starts with The Cat, and Eamon Shea mixes just the right amount of whimsy and slyness. As young Who JoJo, a star is born in Yves D’Orsi (wait until you hear his voice, and he’s polite). Emily Brunt is a mean Sour Kangaroo and there’s nothing cuter than little Nina Sharp as Baby Kangaroo. When it comes to fine-feathered creatures, Kayla Torrey and Carman Flood soar with fluffy support from Bird Girls Sage McGuire, Caleigh Petterson, Sabrina Johnson, Arieanna Magdish, Maya Sharp and Bleu Ricketts. “I can’t come to every rehearsal but I wish I could,” sighs committed but busy Sabrina Johnson.


Seussical Comes To Topanga Elementary, May 2 to 4

Some of the residents of Whoville gather together. Back row: (l-r) Elijah Rosner, Ian Wiegand, Amanda Deitelbaum, Nina Lowry, Indie Alter, Macayla Loomis, Gracie Doolin, Spencer Scheps-Brown, Jamie Mazur, Lucas Wiegand, Collette Keating, Jasper Pershing, Savannah Solis. Middle row (l-r): Mellanie Walker-Wert, Kali Ricketts, Violet Fink, Hugo Verea. Front row (l-r): Jensen Schmitt, Mikayla Williams, India Schmitt.

The Jungle Animals, Jillian Korade, Maya Silardi, Soleil Staun Snyder, Talia Barrett, Alexandra Nordyke, Morgan Glott, Emily Cattle, Jessica Forrest, Jordan Michaelson, Sofia Gray and Sage Jacobs rock and roam the stage with wild intent. “I think I’m a gazelle,” shares Staun Snyder.

The Grinch is properly green and Grinchy as played by Alijah Rosner. Dylan Williams weighs in as Judge Yertle the Turtle and Atticus Walker rules the role of Vlad Vladikoff.

A roving gang of wild monkeys, known as the Wickersham Brothers, sing, “I want to monkey, monkey around,” and they mean it. The ever popular Thing One and Thing Two run on and off the stage while the adorable Whos plead their case.

Williams credits Topanga teacher, ever-passionate Amy Weisberg, who organized a field trip for her class to see a wonderful performance of Seussical, presented at Calabasas High, with influencing the choice to mount the musical at Topanga. Williams explains, “All the kids loved the production so much I didn’t really have to think too hard to know it was right for Topanga. I’m really proud that we’ve been able to provide this cast with such a rich theatrical experience. Where else but Topanga could you find such a talented community of industry professionals willing to give their time to teach and mentor these kids?”

Of course it is Williams herself who is giving the most. Coming from a background as a television line producer, she is incredibly organized and has a natural gift with the children. Unfortunately, while busy directing our children, Williams’ own daughter Mikayla fell off the play structure and broke her arm. The little one, now sporting a beautiful pink cast, is handling it like a trooper.

Will the Whos and their tiny world be saved? Can an elephant hatch an egg? Will Horton ever notice Gertrude? Join the cast and crew at Topanga Elementary Charter School to find out. Performances are Friday, May 2, and Saturday, May 3, at 7 p.m., and Sunday, May 4, at 2 p.m. Tickets are $10 each and can be purchased at Waterlily Cafe, Topanga Homegrown and Topanga Elementary Charter School. Volunteers are welcome.