(Photo by Francie Hansen)

(Photo by Francie Hansen)

‘Seussical’ opens this month at Woodrow Wilson High School

While we live in an era where Broadway hits like “Hamilton” make waves across the country, that wasn’t always the case. Musical theater as we know it today is a relatively new American art form.

“It all started in the 1920s with ‘Show Boat,’ ” says John Beaird, theater teacher at Woodrow Wilson High School for 15 years, who knows a thing or two about musicals. “We were one of the first schools to do musicals regularly.”

It was Woodrow teacher Helen Eckelman who gets credit for inadvertently starting a beloved East Dallas tradition. While classics like Shakespeare were the norm for student thespians in the 1950s, she wanted to do something bigger, something splashier and something that had never been done in Dallas ISD: a Broadway musical. In the spring of 1957, she directed the young actors in a rousing performance of “Oklahoma.”

An institution was born: the Woodrow Spring Musical.

Sixty years later, this annual singing and dancing extravaganza is something students and parents look forward to all year. For this milestone year, Beaird selected the whimsically sweet show “Seussical,” which tells a new story using some of Dr. Seuss’ most beloved old characters, from the Cat in the Hat to Horton to Gertrude McFuss.

Beaird says he selects each musical based on the students in his elective class, making sure to pick a show with plenty of rich roles. He also considers what other shows the students have done, with an eye on providing a good range of performance opportunities.

“The seniors who have performed for all four years have done ‘Phantom of the Opera,’ ‘Funny Girl’ and ‘Annie,’ ” says Beaird, adding that “Seussical” was a light and silly complement to some of the more dramatic shows in recent years. “It’s important that we give them a varied experience.”

Around 100 student performers will take the stage in the cartoonish romp this month. The school spends months preparing for this annual theatrical endeavor, which thrives thanks to a lot of help from parent volunteers, who build sets, make costumes and learn meticulous lighting cues.

“The hours we all commit to this are huge,” Beaird says.

Running April 20-23, the show takes place at 7:30 p.m. nightly, with a 2:30 p.m. matinee on Sunday. General admission is $10 in advance ($12 at the door), while reserved seating is $15 ($18 at the door).

Tickets are on sale now at woodrowwildcats.org or call 214.827.1444.

Keri Mitchell contributed to this report. 

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