My experiences writing, directing and producing Christian musicals for kids through adults.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

"Thinks" on Seussical!

Saturday night we saw a production of Seussical!, a short 3 months after we saw Maggie perform in Seussical!. It's always interesting to see how two different directors and companies interepret the same show.

I particularly noticed the costumes. One difficulty is how to costume Horton the Elephant. Do you go for the minimalist approach of plain gray clothes? Or do you put on elephant ears, or, as I saw in a photo of a third production, an elephant trunk as well? I argue against the trunk -- it's important for the audience to be able to see the actor's face. And, after all, these are anthropomorphic characters, so it's more important for the audience to identify with the character's emotions than to think every time we see him, "He's an elephant." Both actors who played Horton in the two productions were excellent, by the way.

The character of the Cat in the Hat is particularly difficult. Frankly, he's a trouble-maker. Although he encourages JoJo to be imaginative, the "thinks" JoJo is lead into usually get him into trouble. But the Cat has to be charming enough that we don't mind the trouble, or we have to trust that the Cat will help JoJo through the trouble to a happy ending. The Cat in the Hat in the production Maggie was in was particularly excellent. Jenny was so cheerful and full of life that we didn't mind her mischievious nature.

My favorite role in the show is probably Gertrude McFuzz. What a great role for a comedic actress and singer! And both girls who played Gertrude in the two productions I've seen were excellent in their own ways.

1 comment:

  1. I've seen three productions of Seussical, each performed by young people, and well, and read about the travails of the show on Broadway (a flop).

    Dr. Seuss's writing is unsentimental, terse, and often odd. The Cat in the Hat is a cheery home-wrecker who at the last minute cleans things up; a lot of the far-flung imaginary locales are scary. Sam-I-Am hates green eggs and ham and only tries them after a train wreck. The star-bellied sneetches and the sneetches without stars upon thars nearly destroy their society before learning to live with each other. Even Horton the Elephant, who has a heart of gold, is surrounded by xenophobic or narrow-minded animal neighbors. Seussical, in order to sing, emphasizes the small sliver of sentiment found in Horton and makes it the center. Ultimately the show is not Dr. Seuss's vision, it's Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty, and with its heart-on-its-sleeve emotions it is a good show for young people to do. I don't know if Seuss straight up would make a musical at all. But the books make great read-aloud stories for kids. I don't know why.