MILLSTONE – The youngsters who attend Cornerstone Music Studios’ Summer Music and Theater Arts Camp are preparing to stage the camp’s annual show, which this year will be a performance of “Seussical, Jr.”
“Seussical, Jr.” is based on the works of Theodor Geisel, who was known as Dr. Seuss. The musical will be performed by the young actors and actresses at 2 p.m. and 6 p.m. Aug. 8 at the Millstone Performing Arts Center, 5 Dawson Court, Millstone Township. Admission is $10 and all are welcome to attend.
The camp runs for three weeks, Monday through Thursday, from 9:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Participants are incoming third-graders through incoming ninth-graders.
“I marvel at the children’s dedication, energy and drive to keep it fun,” said Laura Wittman, the owner of Cornerstone Music Studios, Millstone Township. “They do their best and put on a great show.”
One cast member is Nicolas Caga of Millstone, who plays Horton the Elephant from the Dr. Seuss stories “Horton Hatches the Egg” and “Horton Hears a Who!” Horton becomes acquainted with the tiny Whos who live on a speck of dust after he hears their voices.
“Horton hears someone call for help and he figures it’s the dust near him that’s speaking,” Nicolas said. “He does get bullied a lot because he believes in something, the Whos. No one else believes Whos are real, but he does not give up. And whatever he says, he means it. Like him, I say what I mean.”
The Whos include Divya Sreekumar of Monroe Township and Bella Dutka of Millstone, who both acknowledged the small size of their characters.
“They’re scared because they are on a speck of dust,” Divya said. “They are tinier than dust. So they depend on Horton because he’s the only one who can hear and save them. I wouldn’t say I’m like them because I’m not that small and I don’t live on a speck of dust.”
“They’re really nervous,” Bella said. “They live on the smallest planet and they try to stay alive whenever they drop. I’m kind of like them because I like to dance and sing along.”
One of the characters who does not believe Horton is the Sour Kangaroo, played by Kasia Hanulewicz of Millstone.
“The Sour Kangaroo is extremely sassy and she has a young kangaroo copying her,” Kasia said. “She blames Horton and thinks he’s foolish for talking to dust. But when she finds out the truth, she promises to take care of the Whos. She’s very full of herself, but we share the aspect of confidence and we also try to turn everything into a song.”
Horton also encounters the Wickersham brothers, a group of monkeys. One brother is portrayed by Jack McHugh of Jackson.
“They have a very criminal vibe,” Jack said. “They bully Horton and call him crazy. They also take the speck of dust with the Whos away and threaten to boil it. There’s really nothing positive about them. So I’d say I’m not like them because I don’t think I have a criminal vibe and I don’t really threaten. I’m like the opposite.”
Jaelei Katzman of Millstone joins the anthropomorphic characters as a jungle creature and as the auctioneer, both of whom are tigers.
“The jungle creature is a backup singer and the auctioneer gets to interact with the audience in auctioning off Horton,” Jaelei said. “So there’s a lot of improv and there’s also a lot of dancing.”
Also in the jungle is Gertrude McFuzz, a bird portrayed by Rachel Glantzberg of Millstone.
“She’s sad about her status because she only has one tail feather while everyone else seems to have a better look,” Rachel said. “Her love life is scattered and she feels she won’t be appreciated, so she starts sacrificing elements of herself to look good. Then she realizes she should be herself. I’m very different because I’m more extroverted. Gertrude doesn’t have any faith in herself.”
Opposite to Gertrude is the bird Mayzie LaBird, played by Emily Landolfi of Freehold Township.
“Mayzie is spunky and confident in herself,” Emily said. “She’s a manipulator who manipulates Horton into looking after her egg. She does try to help Gertrude change and thinks she can help, but she ends up stealing the spotlight. Her intentions are good, but they cause problems. I also try to help people, but when I do it, it doesn’t end with them sad or mad.”
Alongside Gertrude and Mayzie are Sarina Valentine of Monroe Township and Mary Januszka of Millstone as bird girls.
“They’re a posse to Mayzie and Gertrude who sing and dance the whole time,” Sarina said. “They like to come out randomly, try to have fun and are little sassy. I don’t like being sassy, but I do like singing and dancing.”
“They’re backup singers to Mayzie who support her and what she does,” Mary said. “They’re unique in their own way, but they also follow other people. Sometimes I can’t commit to doing stuff on my own, but I can have my own personality and not follow others.”
Rounding out the cast is Evangeline Etzel of Millstone as the Cat in the Hat.
“He’s crazy, he likes to make people laugh and he wants people to add more imagination to themselves,” Evangeline said. “I also like to be funny and silly, but while he likes to encourage others, people don’t always listen to me.”
The crew made note of the ambition of “Seussical, Jr.” which is predominantly musically oriented, and they praised the campers’ work on the show.
“It’s very ambitious,” said Isabel Wittman, assistant music director and conductor. “This is the most music we have ever done and the kids are doing a great job. They are learning everything and working really hard.”
“It’s mostly music throughout the show and they are doing a great job putting it together,” assistant music director Liz Wojtowicz said.
The crew has found that the show benefits the campers through the lesson it teaches.
“Not only is the show a lot of fun, it’s educational and has a wonderful lesson behind it,” stage director Michelle Sayah said.
“We’re excited,” music director Shane Tapley said. “The show ties in our Dr. Seuss stories and makes them applicable to today. It’s great for kids and adults.”
Sharing praise for the show and the campers are Cornerstone’s interns for “Seussical, Jr.”
“It’s really sweet to be a part of the show,” Briana Daniels of Columbus said. “I’m looking forward to the campers sharing the show’s message.”
“The musical is nostalgic,” Adrianna Castellucci of Millstone said. “Most of us grew up on Dr. Seuss and it’s cute to look back on his stories.”
“I joined the intern program to be with my sisters and love being a part of shows. I love seeing of actors and actresses coming in,” Isabelle Landolfi of Freehold Township said.
“We get to see the kids as they normally are, but we also see them become their characters,” Isabella Castellucci of Millstone said.
Laura Raccuglia of Millstone, who is a former camper, said, “I love being here and being a part of this camp, watching it all happen.”
“After working on a production in New York City, this is very much a change of pace for me,” Melissa Dikert of Millstone said. “It’s more local and for the first time, I’m helping out children. It’s a new and fun experience.”