STEPs puts on final show

DERRY – The performers of STEPs took the stage one last time Saturday night at the Derry Opera House.

STEPs, Specialized Theatre Enrichment Program, an opportunity for local performers, from ages 12-18, to bolster their strengths and improve their skill-set. Sisters, Nikki Murray and Yvonne Sarafinas headed the program

“Seussical Jr.,” a musical based on the beloved characters of Dr. Seuss, gave a colorful send-off to the program.

“Seussical” featured the Cat in the Hat as narrator and emcee of the well-known tales of “Horton Hatches an Egg” and “Horton Hears a Who.” The musical gave opportunity to expand on the tale, with the addition of Gertrude McFuzz, with a one-feathered tail, from “Yertle the Turtle and Other Stories.”

Horton finds the familiar speck of dust, home of Who-ville and Jojo. The young protagonist develops a fast friendship with the elephant that shares the belief that just because he cannot see him does not change the validity of his existence. The speck-carrying clover is dropped in a meadow of clovers and while Horton methodically looks and listens for his friend, a free-spirited Mayzie La Bird convinces him to care for her egg, which he does for 41 weeks instead of the one promised afternoon. In the meantime, Gertrude, with the help of a fuller tail and ultimately a realization of self worth, finds the clover and the courage to tell an otherwise-occupied Horton how she feels.

The Cat in the Hat was played by Evie Brunette, from Londonderry. Brunette said she originally was nervous of taking the lead in the production, but by the third and final performance, she was able top channel the fun-loving, easy-going attitude of the infamous host.

Maya Lincoln, who played the bird next door with eyes only for the elephant, had a special fondness for this show, as it was a reprise of her first show. Gertrude was effortlessly sweet and charming. Both girls have the beginnings of what is sure to be an impressive resume.

Horton, in the original stories, is a diligent and steadfast, albeit soft-spoken caregiver. Carson Gregoire of Goffstown seemed to focus on the latter, since the lyrics and plot covered the elephant’s resolve. Gregoire was obviously comfortable with the script and blocking, his voice was not booming or belting, but it was characteristically comforting and concerned and definitely worth the hearing.

Brenna Kimball, as Mayzie LaBird, played a fantastic juxtaposition to the passive pachyderm, with her larger-than-life attitude, and her absolute resolve to get the most out of life. This character must have been so much fun to play, because Kimball’s complete joy lit up the stage each time she set foot on it.

Riley Anderson, as the Who-ville boy and receiver of the Cat in the Hat’s attention, took on the role of a tourist and unlikely hero with seasoned ease and professionalism. Anderson held no reserve in singing solo, and with the company, and playing off the ensemble cast, even though her character lived on a speck of dust.

The Sour Kangaroo, played by Haley Hines of Londonderry, was the keystone of the mob against Horton. As a character who had many opportunities to lead the masses to think Horton was crazy and convince them of her way of thinking, sometimes around through and above other choral numbers, Hines was the one to hear. As the loudest voice against Horton, hers was never the easiest to agree with but definitely the one heard. Hines had opportunity to scat, and belt and rose to the occasion with an air that this is just the beginning of a very deserved career.

The Wickershams were a group of three monkey brothers who sided with Sour Kangaroo and caused some drama of their own. Their acrobatic tricks and silliness made them the easy favorites to the younger audience members.

The show was a perfect opportunity to bring children to the theatre. The anticipation of waiting for the lights to go down from them, to the parental pros and cons list of if they will be able to sit through the whole thing, initially caused apprehension of the behavior of even the best-behaved kid. But they did not sit through the whole thing, by intermission, they wanted to make sure they were not going to miss it. By the second act they, were dancing in the aisle. It was a perfect family event that everyone enjoyed.

Now, Yvonne and Nikki are refocusing their attention on their families. It was obvious that the entire company has created lasting bonds and memories for and because of these two incredible women. Every performer involved in STEPs got a great opportunity to learn about their art, themselves and each other. This experience will, and the memories it hass created will follow all of them for a long time.