The Broadway RFD Junior production this year is "Seussical KIDS."
Performances of "Seussical KIDS" will take place at 4 p.m. on June 17 and 18 at the A.J. Steinberg Auditorium in Smoky Valley Middle School, 401 N. Cedar St. in Lindsborg. Tickets are $5 for adults and $3 for students. Children 4 and under are admitted free.

LINDSBORG — Between summer sports and music lessons, dozens of Lindsborg youth are taking to the stage to present the Broadway RFD Junior musical "Seussical KIDS."

Director Abby Rishel-Barnett is only 18 years old, but the recent graduate of Smoky Valley High School has plenty of stage experience under her belt already. She has been involved in Broadway RFD productions since the second grade.

"After I completed my final junior show, I came back and I helped for three more years after that," she noted.

"Seussical KIDS" is her first directing experience.

"I'm having a ton of fun," Rishel-Barnett said. "It's stressful, but directing any show is stressful."

Broadway RFD Junior is a theater program for children who have completed first through eighth grades.

"I have numerous RFD veterans who are helping me with the lights and wrangling kids backstage," Rishel-Barnett said. "We have 42 kids on stage and then about 10 behind the scenes."

Since this year's Broadway RFD production only had one child's role, it was decided to do a separate children's show this year.

Rishel-Barnett wanted to produce "Seussical KIDS" because that version of the show is shorter — running between 30 and 45 minutes, as opposed to the full version that takes twice as long.

"I know that little kids love Dr. Seuss," Rishel-Barnett said. "It's shorter and since we only had three weeks of rehearsal, I thought that would be better."

The students learn the basics of acting and singing on stage, along with technical duties such as building props and set pieces.

"My whole first week, I spent the first 30 minutes teaching — talking about facial expression, projecting or other things,” Rishel-Barnett said. “We would talk about that and then we would do a game."

The cast has put in hours of work, memorizing lines and lyrics along with their choreography for the songs.

"I've gotten so many phone calls that say, 'my kids are pooped — thank you!' I say, 'you're welcome!'" Rishel-Barnett said. "Rehearsals are long and they get tired, but once they get on that stage they just shine and it's so much fun to see the final product, especially when they are so young."

Working with children who are shy is one of the challenges of directing the show.

"Sometimes, acting isn't encouraged when you're little," Rishel-Barnett said. "We're encouraging kids to be on stage. We want them to push through being afraid of being on the stage."

To get them to sing out, she will often add her voice to theirs in rehearsal, pushing them to be heard no matter whether they are performing perfectly or not.

"I have faith in my little kids. They've taken on a lot and they're doing really well," Rishel-Barnett said. "We have a great cast. There are so many younger kids taking on a role and really blossoming with it."

Performances of "Seussical KIDS" will take place at 4 p.m. on June 17 and 18 at the A.J. Steinberg Auditorium in Smoky Valley Middle School, 401 N. Cedar St. in Lindsborg. Tickets are $5 for adults and $3 for students. Children 4 and under are admitted free. 

"It's a great opportunity to see kids be something other than themselves running around," Rishel-Barnett said. "This is an organized kids show, so they actually have to learn and rehearse and it's fun to come and see the final product."

Contact Patricia Middleton by email at pmiddleton@mcphersonsentinel.com or follow her stories on Twitter at @MacSentinel.