MONTROSE, N.Y. -- Students from Hendrick Hudson High School's joined children from Blue Mountain Middle School and Buchanan-Verplanck Elementary School to perform Seussical the Musical last weekend.
The show included the 35-year reunion from the cast of the 1979 production of "Bye Bye Birdie" at Hen Hud.
Clare Carey and Erica Denler collaborated with the cast to bring life to Seussical, the fabulous, family-friendly Broadway show that made its debut in 2000. The show is a delightful mashup of many published Dr. Seuss favorites – the Cat in the Hat and Horton the Elephant play prominent roles.
The March 6-8 production was dogged by bad weather that eliminated some of the special programming the producers had hoped to present – both to the individual Hendrick Hudson schools and area senior citizens and pre-schoolers.
Despite that, the cast and crew pulled it off. Carey, who does double duty as director of food services for the district as well as advising the Starboard Stars, is an alumna of Hendrick Hudson, and played May Peterson in the school's 1979 production of Bye Bye Birdie.
Much to her surprise, a group of more than 20 cast members from that show turned up opening night for a surprise visit. Amy Benjamin, a recently retired English teacher, was the catalyst. Benjamin learned Carey was directing the show and called Jack O’Daley, who had staged managed Benjamin’s shows back in the day and now lives in North Carolina. Birdie alumni from Arizona, Kansas, Florida, Massachusetts and more attended the reunion.
When Carey began recognizing faces as her former cast colleagues entered the auditorium, her first thought was, “Is this my Make-a-Wish? Did the doctor tell you I’m dying?” She quickly added, “I was just so overwhelmed that these people would do this. I told the Seussical cast later, this is how incredibly important it is to be part of a show like this.”
The Birdie group met for breakfast the next morning, too. Carey and her 1979 castmates reminisced about how much bigger the auditorium seemed back then, and how much has changed – the microphones, the lighting and the wardrobe.
To play the part of May Peterson, “I wore my mother’s dresses and my grandmother’s fur,” she said, laughing. Carey, who has two sons and lives in the district, was thrilled to work alongside Erica Denler, the high school’s chorus teacher.
“She came to me and said ‘I think we would make a really good team.’ She was right. Erica is the whole package. I have such respect for her program,” Carey said.
Working with elementary and middle school students was not a challenge at all, Carey said. In fact, “I think the high school kids benefited most from it. Their whole demeanor changes when the younger kids come in. They take on a mentor role.”
Weather was a huge factor in the group’s ability to rehearse and prepare. The pit band, in particular, “lost all of their technical time,” Carey said, “But their performance was incredible.”
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