Combine a student body’s love of theater, a grumpy sixth-grader, musical numbers and dance moves, and the product is “The Grunch.”
This new children’s musical, based loosely on “The Grinch Who Stole Christmas” yet is not a Christmas story, uses simplicity, catchy songs and humor to delight the audience. Litchfield Community Youth Theatre’s production of “The Grunch” debuts at 7 p.m. April 4.
The 60-minute musical, put on with more than 37 cast members and crew ranging in ages from third to 11th grade, features 14 musical numbers, great lighting and simple stage and costume design, highlighting the actors’ talents, voices and choreography. Director Mary Hansen, who has been in community theatre for about 15 years, said although snow days and bad weather delayed rehersals, once they marked the stage, things were smooth sailing.
“Normally, when we are preparing for a play, the set isn’t done until later,” Hansen said. “There is usually an adjustment the actors have to make when the set is in place. But the simplicity allowed for the actors to focus on learning the songs and dances and their marks.”
Hansen said each child who participated in the production was given a CD to listen to the songs to learn the words.
“I had a few parents complain about it, but I told the kids to keep listening,” Hansen said. “The songs are really simple, and they caught on quickly. They worked with the music director to get the timing and queues just right.”
Litchfield High School junior Cole Lawrence, who has helped with light and sound for more than 20 productions since sixth grade, said the show has been challenging for the sound people due to getting used to a new sound system.
“We’ve got to figure out the dos and don’ts,” Lawrence said. “We have a couple of queues that are timed to the beat of the music, so that makes it difficult, too.”
The show tells the story of what it’s like to be in a theater program, Lawrence said.
“I’m not one for standing in the spotlight,” Lawrence said. “But it’s great how the show gives sound and light crew attention and gives them a little bit of the spotlight.”
The songs are catchy and a few get stuck in one’s head, Lawrence said.
“I like the main theme of the song, ‘Writing a Musicial,’” Lawrence said.
Litchfield High School sophomore Cali Ficker, who plays Principal Augustus, said her favorite song is “Three Feet Tall.”
Ficker’s favorite part of being in “The Grunch” is mentoring the younger kids in the production.
“The show is really funny and sweet with all of the kids in it,” Ficker said. “It’s really fun because it’s a lot of the little kids’ first show.”
The most challenging part of putting the show together for Ficker was learning all of the choreography.
“I think learning all of the dances was a bit of a struggle,” Ficker said. “I’ve been in a lot of plays, so I’m more used to it.”
Overall, Ficker said the play has a great message for those who come to see the show.
“I like how it says that there are no small parts, there are only small actors,” she said. “Every part of the play matters. What I get from the show is that no matter who you are, if you join theater, you’re part of a family.”