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Mon River Arts youth present 'Seussical Jr.'

| Thursday, Oct. 25, 2012, 1:37 a.m.
Margarita Hart as Sour Kangaroo, left, Tyler Prah as Cat in the Hat, Zachary Mendola as Horton rehearse a scene of 'Seussical Jr.' at the Grand Theatre in Elizabeth. Norma Kutscher | Daily News
Mon River Arts Youth Drama Petite Players and Stagemasters presents 'Seussical Jr.' Friday at 7:30 p.m, Saturday at 2 and 5 p.m., Sunday at 2 p.m. Tickets $8. For information or tickets, call 412-628-1032 or Taking a break from dress rehearsal, from left, are Kyla Denitti as Bird Girl, Amy Hotovchin as Mayzie, and Carly Cygrymus and Brittany Halt as Bird Girls. Norma Kutscher | Daily News

Fans of Dr. Seuss will want to make time to visit the Grand Theatre in Elizabeth this weekend.

Mon River Arts Youth Theatre production of “Seussical Jr.” will be presented Friday at 7:30 p.m., Saturday at 2 and 5 p.m., and Sunday at 2 p.m.

Director Jen Gorton said the show is based on “Horton Hears a Who.”

“The show is a compilation of Dr. Seuss stories into one show. All the characters we know and love meet in the jungle for an adventure,” she said.

She notes the “Jr.” in the musical's title means the show is a shorter version of the original musical, but all the songs are included.

The production uses the combined talent of the Petite Players and Stagemasters for a cast of 29 elementary through middle school students. Twelve school districts are represented, including Elizabeth Forward, South Allegheny and West Jefferson Hills.

Gorton has never directed “Seussical Jr.” and said the cast made her job easy. “There is a lot of experience with this cast and they are strong in all aspects of musical theater.”

Several characters take center stage, she said, including The Cat in the Hat played by Tyler Prah, a ninth-grader at Elizabeth Forward High School, who helps tell the story; Horton, played by Zachary Mendola, 14, of Ringgold Middle School; Gertrude McFuzz played by Samantha Hawk, a seventh-grader at South Park Middle School; and Mayzie La Bird played by Amy Hotovchin, a seventh-grader at EF Middle School.

While she is directing the cast, her husband Shawn runs the sound.

“He's an elementary music teacher in the Wilkinsburg School District. When he does shows with his students, I help him by directing. It's nice that we can do this together,” Gorton said.

This marks Gorton's return to the Youth Theater. “Last year I did ‘Once On This Island,' which was by Lynn Ahren and Stephen Flaherty, the same ones who did ‘Seussical'. Even though I've never directed this show, I was familiar with their music.”

The Pleasant Hills resident, private voice instructor and music director at Forest Hills Presbyterian Church majored in voice performance at Boston University and was involved in many productions as a performer after college. She admits, “I'm starting to get that itch again to return to the stage.”

Gorton initially was a musical director, but over the last five years has taken on the role of director. “The last few years I've been doing both and I like the idea of both coming together.”

She said her favorite production as a director was “Once On This Island” last year at the Grand. “I was in that show years ago. I love what that story means.”

If the opportunity arose, Gorton said she would love to direct “Les Miserables.” “That is my all-time favorite show. I've seen it at least 10 times — in New York, London and all over the country. It has a very special place in my heart,” the director said.

“Seussical Jr.” is a fun show and the director hopes theater-goers “enjoy the ride because this is a hilarious, fun show. My favorite line is ‘A person's a person, no matter how small' and I hope people leave the theater knowing they are important.”

Carol Waterloo Frazier is an editor for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-664-9161, ext. 1916, or