Seussical

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Seussical
Seussical (logo).png
Logo
Music Stephen Flaherty
Lyrics Lynn Ahrens
Book Lynn Ahrens
Stephen Flaherty
Basis The stories of Dr. Seuss (mainly "Horton Hears a Who!", "Horton Hatches the Egg" and "Miss Gertrude McFuzz")
Productions
2000 Boston tryout
2000 Broadway
2002 1st US Tour
2003 2nd US Tour
2007 Off-Broadway
2012 West End

Seussical is a musical by Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty based on the books of Dr. Seuss (mainly "Horton Hears a Who!", "Horton Hatches the Egg" and "Miss Gertrude McFuzz") that debuted on Broadway in 2000. The play's story is a rather complex amalgamation of many of Seuss's most famous books. After a Broadway run, the production spawned two US national tours and a UK tour. It has become a favorite for school, community and regional theatres.[1]

Productions[edit]

Pre-Broadway[edit]

In a reading in New York City, Eric Idle played the Cat in the Hat, and was credited at the time for contributions to the story line. In the Toronto workshop in 1999, coordinated by Livent Inc., Andrea Martin played the Cat in the Hat.[2] The musical had its out-of-town tryout in Boston, Massachusetts at the Colonial Theatre in September 2000.[3]

Broadway[edit]

Seussical opened on Broadway at the Richard Rodgers Theatre on November 30, 2000.[4] Directed by Frank Galati with choreography by Kathleen Marshall; though uncredited, Kathleen Marshall's brother Rob Marshall was hired to direct the show when it returned from Boston to Broadway; the original Broadway cast included David Shiner as the Cat in the Hat, Kevin Chamberlin as Horton, and Anthony Blair Hall as Jojo. It also featured Janine LaManna as Gertrude McFuzz and Michele Pawk as Mayzie LaBird, with Stuart Zagnit as the Mayor of Whoville, Alice Playten as the Mayor's wife, Sharon Wilkins as the Sour Kangaroo and Eric Devine as General Genghis Khan Schmitz also appearing. Throughout the run, there were many celebrity Cat in the Hat replacements, including Rosie O'Donnell[5] and Cathy Rigby.

The production received lukewarm reviews, with critics focusing on the huge cast of characters and unsympathetic plotlines.[6] The Broadway production closed on May 20, 2001 after 198 performances and 34 previews.[4]

United States tours[edit]

Following the Broadway production, there were two US National tours. The first, in 2002–03, starred Cathy Rigby, and the second toured in 2003–04.[7][8]

The script for the first tour was extensively reworked after the poor showing on Broadway. This resulted in the removal or reworking of several songs. The biggest change involves Jojo, who is initially an anonymous boy who thinks up The Cat in the Hat when he finds a strange hat at center stage. The Cat helps the boy create the Seussian universe and the rest of the story. The Cat later shoves the boy into the story, making him play the role of Jojo. There is also additional dialogue, as well as the deletion of some songs and their reprises.

It is this version of the musical that is currently rented by the leasing company, and has enjoyed some success in regional and children's theater companies across the country.

Off-Broadway[edit]

A 90-minute Off-Broadway production was staged at the Lucille Lortel Theatre from July 19, 2007 through August 17, 2007 by Theatreworks USA, directed and choreographed by Marcia Milgrom Dodge and starring Shorey Walker as The Cat in the Hat.[9][10] This production was downscaled for the National Tour, which took its final bow in Spring 2014. The 14th National Tour closing cast included: Tommy McKiernan (The Cat in the Hat), Jeremiah Haley (Horton the Elephant), April Lavelle (Gertrude McFuzz), Josh Boscarino (Jojo), Ashley Stults (Mayzie La Bird), Charnette Batey (Sour Kangaroo/Young Kangaroo), Raye Lederman (Bird Girl #1/Mrs. Mayor), Emma Wagner (Bird Girl #2), Sammy Lopez (Wickersham #1/Mr. Mayor), Brody Karn (Wickersham #2), Corey Loftus and Greg Laucella (replacement Wickershams).

West End, London[edit]

Seussical opened on the West End at the Arts Theatre on December 4, 2012, by Sell a Door Theatre Company based in Greenwich, London.[11] Produced by David Hutchinson and Phillip Rowntree and directed by Phillip Rowntree, designed by Richard Evans, lighting by Alexander Ridgers with choreography by Cressida Carrè.

It has been announced that "Seussical" will once again return to the Arts Theatre in the Christmas of 2013, once again produced by Sell A Door Theatre Company.[12]

One-act versions[edit]

Another one-act version of the show, Seussical the Musical, Jr. is designed for performances by junior high or middle school students, and part of the MTI "Jr." series. The Junior version of Seussical was changed from the full-length Broadway version to make it shorter, in one act, and more accessible for younger actors.

A one-act version of the show was reworked with the permissions of the playwrights in 2004. The "Theatre for Young Audience" version contains significant changes, including reducing the cast to 12 actors and removing the entire military subplot.

Contributing Dr. Seuss books[edit]

The overarching plot of the show mirrors that of Horton Hears a Who!, centering on Horton the Elephant's endeavors to protect the people of Who-ville, who live on a tiny speck of dust. It also features characters and scenarios from many other Seuss books, including the Butter Side Uppers/Downers from The Butter Battle Book, Gertrude McFuzz, and, in addition to a music number based on its original story, The Cat in the Hat also acts as "your host and MC" – sometimes being an outside observer, a narrator and devil's advocate throughout the show, briefly leaping into the action on several occasions to create conflict and keep the story moving. In all, the following Seuss books have some minor characters and/or settings incorporated into the show:

Due to the elimination of songs such as "The Military", "Havin' A Hunch" and "Message from The Front" and phrases and sections of other songs, Seussical, Jr. only uses the books:

More info on the cut songs are below.

Plot[edit]

This synopsis describes the Off-Broadway version.

Act I

The story begins with a bare stage, save for an odd red-and-white striped hat. A small boy discovers it and imagines what it could belong to, finally conjuring up the Cat in the Hat. The Cat creates the Seussian world around him and the boy ("Oh, the Thinks You Can Think!"), and he acts as the narrator for the remainder of the musical, as well as playing some of the minor roles. At the Cat's encouragement, the boy thinks up the Jungle of Nool, where Horton the Elephant is bathing.

Horton hears a strange noise coming from a speck of dust, and decides there must be someone on it. He rescues the speck and places it on a clover ("Horton Hears a Who") and decides to guard it. Led by the at-first-villain Sour Kangaroo, the other animals in the jungle mock him mercilessly, except for Gertude McFuzz, Horton's next door neighbor, who admires his compassion and begins to fall in love with him ("Biggest Blame Fool"). Horton soon discovers the dust speck is in fact a planet covered with microscopic people called Whos. They introduce themselves and their community (such as their yearly Christmas pageant based on How the Grinch Stole Christmas) and explain their predicament. In addition to being unable to control where their dust speck flies, they are on the brink of war and all of their beautiful Truffula Trees (from The Lorax) have been cut down ("Here on Who"). Horton's resolve to guard the dust speck is strengthened.

At this point, the Cat in the Hat abruptly pushes the boy from the beginning into the story; he becomes Jojo, the son of the Mayor of Whoville. No sooner does he enter than he is roughly scolded by his parents: he has inadvertently been causing trouble at school by thinking (or rather, having Thinks), disrupting the class and horrifying the teachers. Jojo is sent to "take [a] bath and go to bed/And think some normal Thinks instead," but the Cat soon persuades him to "have a think in the tub." Jojo imagines the tub is McElligot's Pool ("It's Possible"), distracting himself and accidentally flooding the Mayor's living room. The Mayor and his wife wonder what they should do about their son ("How To Raise a Child"). After receiving a brochure from the Cat, they decide to send him to military school, under the supervision and persuasion of General Genghis Khan Schmitz (A character in I Had Trouble in Getting to Solla Sollew), who is preparing to go to war with those who eat their bread butter side down (as in The Butter Battle Book) ("The Military"). An alphabet book which features many strange creatures from the Aunt Annie's Alligator to the Zizzer-Zazzer-Zuzz.

Meanwhile, Horton has been guarding the clover for "over a week", getting ridiculed by the Citizens of the Jungle. He then thinks about how no matter what others may say or do, he still has his dreams for adventure and a friend. He decides to chat with the Whos, and Jojo responds. They chat and discover they have found a friend in one another ("Alone in the Universe"). Jojo goes to sleep, only to be woken up by the Cat in the Hat. The Cat asks him what should happen next, and Jojo decides to focus on Getrude. Her feelings for Horton are stronger than ever, but she fears he doesn't notice her because her tail consists only of "one droopy-droop feather" ("The One Feather Tail of Miss Gertrude McFuzz"). At the advice of Mayzie La Bird, whose tail is enormous and dazzling, Gertrude, goes to Doctor Dake by the Lake (played by the Cat), who prescribes her pills to make her tail grow ("Amayzing Mayzie/Amayzing Gertrude"). Gertrude is so excited by the dramatic and immediate results of the pills that she overdoses, causing her tail to grow to a ridiculous length.

Horton is ambushed by a group of ne'er-do-well monkeys called the Wickersham Brothers ("Monkey Around") who steal the clover and run off with it. Horton gives chase, until the monkeys give the clover to a black-bottomed eagle named Vlad Vladikoff. Horton continues to chase the clover, until Vlad Vladikoff drops it into a large patch of identical clovers, 'one hundred miles wide' ("Chasing the Whos"). The Cat in the Hat abruptly freezes the action and delivers an ironically cheery tune to the audience ("How Lucky You Are"). Horton begins to look for the clover, hoping that the Whos are still alive, when Gertrude, who has followed Horton all this distance, catches up with him. Her tail is now gorgeous, if impractically large. She tries to catch his attention, but he is too busy looking for the Whos to notice her ("Notice Me, Horton"). She retreats to take more pills while he continues searching. After searching 2,999,999 clovers, Horton loses hope, and he sees Mayzie La Bird high in a nest. Apparently, she was in Fort Worth, when she met a nightingale named Tweet McFirth. After 'three weeks of bliss', Tweet left her with an egg. Mayzie then persuades Horton to give up on the search for the Whos and sit on her egg while she goes off for a vacation. Horton reluctantly agrees, and Mayzie flies off ("How Lucky You Are (Mayzie's Reprise)"). Horton waits on the egg for months, bearing harsh weather conditions and having to decide whether to keep Mayzie's promise or find the Whos.("Horton Sits On The Egg") Horton is captured by hunters, Gertrude tries to save Horton, but the size and weight of her new tail prevents her from flying. The Cat in the Hat, backed by the full company, sings another reprise of "How Lucky You Are" to finish off Act I.

Act II

At the top of the act, Horton is transported to New York City and auctioned off to the Circus McGurkus (If I Ran the Circus) ("Egg, Nest, and Tree"). After going on the road and "sitting on the egg for 51 weeks, sitting here while people have paid to take peeks," Horton meets up with Mayzie again, and tries to give the egg back to her. She selfishly insists that he keep it as a rather dubious gift, wishes him a sarcastic good luck when it hatches, and leaves. Horton, betrayed and alone, sorrowfully remembers how no matter how hard he tried, he couldn't save the Whos, or poor Jojo. Realizing that the egg also is alone without its mother, and he is the only one who can help it. With a brave determination, declares that he'll do better than try, and protect the little egg with everything he has ("Alone in the Universe (Reprise)"). Then he sings the egg a lullaby about a magical world called Solla Sollew. At the same time, Jojo, the Mayor, and the Mayor's Wife, lost in the clover field, reflect on recent events, wishing they could all be in Solla Sollew as well ("Solla Sollew").

The Battle of Butter finally commences. Jojo rebels against General Schmitz and abandons the army. He hands in his sword and hat and unwittingly runs out onto a minefield, vanishing in an explosion. The General assumes that Jojo died in the explosion, and heads back to Whoville to deliver the sad news to his family. The Cat reveals to the audience that Jojo did, in fact, survive, but Jojo quickly discovers that he's lost, and doesn't know where to turn. After being confronted by the Cat and the Hunches (Hunches in Bunches), Jojo finds his way home by the power of his Thinks ("Havin' a Hunch").

Meanwhile, Gertrude sneaks into the circus where Horton is kept at night and frees him. She explains the troubles she went through to reach him, including getting all but one of her tail feathers plucked out to allow her to fly, and finally confesses her love for him ("All For You"). What's more, she found Horton's clover, as well! Horton is delighted to find the Whos alive and well, but the happy ending has not arrived yet: the evil Sour Kangaroo suddenly appears and with the Wickersham Brothers, kidnaps Horton. Horton is dragged back to the Jungle of Nool and put on trial for "talking to a speck, disturbing the peace, and loitering...on an egg." The Cat plays the bailiff, and Judge Yertle the Turtle presides over the case. Gertrude and Horton make a stand at the case, but the verdict is obvious from the beginning: Horton is remanded to the "Nool Asylum for the Criminally Insane," and the clover is to be boiled in a kettle of beezlenut oil. Horton, aghast, encourages the Whos to make as much noise as they can, to prove they exist. Their efforts initially seem futile, until Jojo comes up with a new word, "YOPP," his shouting of which reverberates throughout the world and finally makes the Whos heard ("The People Versus Horton the Elephant"). The court acquits Horton, and the Sour Kangaroo ends her wicked ways and decides to do her part in protecting the clover. On Who, Jojo is celebrated for his achievement, to be honored as Thinker Non-Stop.

Suddenly, the egg hatches: to everyone's surprise, a tiny flying Elephant-Bird comes out. Horton panics, realizing he can't handle flying progeny, and asks Gertrude what he should do. She responds, "I have wings, yes I can fly...you teach him earth, and I will teach him sky." They agree to raise the child together. The Cat in the Hat appears one final time to sum things up ("Oh, the Thinks You Can Think! (Reprise)"). The scene dissolves, leaving only Jojo, now just a boy again, and the strange hat from the top of show. He walks up to the hat, and pulls it over his head. Blackout. The curtain call is accompanied by a final number set to a verse of Green Eggs and Ham.

Songs[edit]

* = Lyrics by Lynn Ahrens and Dr. Seuss
** = Not present in current revision of play ^ = Not on Cast Recording

Songs in Seussical Jr.[edit]

Instrumentation[edit]

The licensed orchestration for Seussical stays true to the original Broadway production's seventeen musicians. The instrumentation calls for two keyboards, bass guitar, two guitars, drums, percussion, three woodwind players, two trumpets, trombone, two violins, viola, and cello. Both guitarists are called to play both acoustic and electric guitars, and the second part doubles on banjo. The first woodwind part doubles on piccolo, flute, clarinet, and soprano and alto sax; the second part doubles on oboe, clarinet, bass clarinet, and tenor sax; the third part doubles on flute, clarinet, bassoon, and baritone sax.

Characters[edit]

Major Characters[edit]

  • Horton the Elephant – The main character. While the Cat gets top billing, Horton is the heart and soul of Seussical. He is described as a thinker and an outsider, almost a blue-collar worker. He tries to protect the Whos and care for the egg Mayzie leaves behind even though the animals think he is crazy. He and Gertrude become the parents of the elephant-bird. Kevin Chamberlin originated the role.
  • Gertrude McFuzz – The loyal bird-neighbor of Horton, she loves him but is shy due to having only one feather for a tail. She has major insecurities about her tail and seeks help from Mayzie La Bird because she has a tail Gertrude envies. Horton eventually falls for her and she becomes the adoptive mother of the elephant bird in the end.
  • The Cat in the Hat – The mischievous, imaginative, comedic narrator of the show. The Cat acts as a mentor to Jojo throughout the play. The Cat also plays several other characters in the story, including the Bailiff in "The People vs. Horton The Elephant," Mr. McGurkus, Jose the pool boy in "Mayzie in Palm Beach," Doctor Dake in "Amazing Gertrude," a piano player imitating Louie Armstrong, an auctioneer, and others. Some productions have The Cat also play Yertle the Turtle, Vlad Vladikoff, and in Jr. productions, The Grinch. The Cat often breaks the Fourth Wall for comedic effect. The script allows for the Cat to be played by a girl as well, with only minor script changes which are detailed in the back of librettos. David Shiner originated the role.
  • JoJo – A thinker, the child of The Mayor and Mrs. Mayor, gets into trouble for thinking. He and Horton bond over the fact that they are outcasts because of what they do (Horton protecting the Whos and Jojo's "thinks"). He is appreciated in the end. All productions allow for Jojo to be played by either a boy or a girl with no script changes.
  • Mayzie LaBird – A vivacious and vain bird who tells Gertrude to take pills so her tail will grow longer, forcing Horton to love her (Gertrude). She is the mother of the elephant-bird Horton and Gertrude adopt but she abandons him and goes to Palm Beach.
  • The Sour Kangaroo – The main antagonist of Seussical. She thinks that Horton is a fool for thinking that there is life on a speck of dust. She may also play the Young Kangaroo as a puppet.

Supporting Characters[edit]

  • Mr. Mayor - The Mayor of Whoville, Jojo's father.
  • Mrs. Mayor - The Mayor's wife, Jojo's mother.
  • General Genghis Khan Schmitz – The general of the Whos' military. He leads Jojo to war against the Butter-Side-Downers. He is removed in the Jr. version of the play.
  • The Wickersham Brothers – Three mischievous monkeys who steal Horton's clover from him. They work as henchmen for the Sour Kangaroo.
  • The Young Kangaroo – The Young Kangaroo can be played by a puppet attached to the Sour Kangaroo's costume or a person. Does everything Sour Kangaroo does.
  • The Bird Girls- The Bird Girls are a type of Greek chorus who are Mayzie's friends. They act as the narrators when the Cat in the Hat is not around.
  • The Grinch - The Grinch is a notable member of Whoville, known for organizing their Christmas pageant.
  • Yertle The Turtle - Yertle is the judge of the jungle, appearing at the beginning of the show and in "People vs Horton the Elephant"
  • Vlad Vladikoff - A cameo role. He is hired by the Sour Kangaroo to steal Horton's clover. Due to his cameo role, he may also be in the ensemble.

Ensemble Characters[edit]

  • The Whos - Citizens of Whoville, idealistic citizens of a "pleasantville"-type town. Also included in this category are The Cadets, boys in Schmitz's military.
  • The Jungle Creatures - Flexible movers who appear as dancers and singers in jungle scenes.
  • Hunches - These are representations of Jojo's thoughts, and are controlled by the Cat in the Hat.
  • The Hunters - They hunt Horton and take him to auction, often being doubled with the Wickersham Brothers.
  • Circus Performers - Acts in the Circus McGurkus. Clowns, animals, gymnasts - they sing backup in "Solla Sollew".

"The Lorax" sequence[edit]

An extensive 10 minute sequence adapting The Lorax was seen in the original script for Seussical. It faced numerous difficulties due to the already lengthy running time of the show, being cut to 5 minutes before being replaced with a reprise of "Solla Sollew" before being removed entirely after it's Boston tryout. Lorax-themed lyrics were added to the end of Here on Who as a replacement, though these lyrics would later be cut from the Jr. version. This sequence being cut also seems to explain why the second act is substantially shorter than the first.

While much of Seussical was an amalgamation of several stories and books, this 10 minute sequence largely preserved the text of the original book and limited itself from crossing with the other characters. The sequence would've featured Jojo stumbling upon the Onceler's hut while trying to find his way home. There, the Cat in the Hat and the Hunches would tell him of the Lorax before suggesting he speak to the Onceler. The Onceler would speak to Jojo in a croaky voice, before leaping from his hut and singing his song - numerous elements of the book appear (i.e. the Truffula Trees, barbaloots, humming fish, swammy-swans and the Lorax himself, gradually disappearing as the song goes on). The song ends with the Onceler back in his hut, giving Jojo the last Truffula seed.

Recently, as of 2013, MTI has begun offering the sequence as an independent "mini-musical", advertising it on the back of Seussical librettos and scripts. It's possible that if the stage rights for both were acquired, one could stage them in the same production as originally intended.

Seussical Jr. removals[edit]

The entire Military subplot was removed to make the story fit to children more, which resulted in the General Genghis Khan Schmitz character being completely removed. Because of this, the songs "The Military", "Havin' A Hunch" and "Message from The Front" were also removed. Jojo remains a lead, but his role is shifted to an average boy sucked into the vortex in The Cat in the Hat's hat, and feels out of place throughout the rest of the story, thus explaining why he feels different.

Also, many songs were shortened or their reprises were cut. For example, "How Lucky You Are", the first version is not there, but the reprise is credited as the full song. Also, "The People Versus Horton the Elephant" is split into two parts.

All of the Grinch scenes are removed. Due to this removal, the characters of Max the Dog and Cindy Lou Who are removed. However, the Grinch still plays a small role in the song "Here on Who." - having one line. Due to this minimal amount of time, some productions choose to have the Cat in the Hat play the Grinch in this song using a Santa hat and a mask.

Awards and nominations[edit]

Original Broadway production[edit]

Year Award Category Nominee Result
2001 Tony Award Best Actor in a Musical Kevin Chamberlin Nominated
Drama Desk Award Outstanding Actor in a Musical Kevin Chamberlin Nominated
Outstanding Featured Actress in a Musical Janine LaManna Nominated
Outstanding Music Stephen Flaherty Nominated

Original Off-Broadway production[edit]

Year Award Category Nominee Result
2008 Lucille Lortel Award[13] Outstanding Revival Nominated
Outstanding Choreography Marcia Milgrom Dodge Nominated
Outstanding Costume Design Tracy Christensen Nominated
Drama League Award Outstanding Revival of a Musical Nominated

References[edit]

  1. ^ TIME magazine reported in its May 26, 2008 issue, p. 51, that this musical ranked as the second most frequently produced musical by U.S. high schools in 2007.
  2. ^ Jones, Kenneth and Lefkowitz, David. "Livent Hears a Who: Seussical Has Aug. 20–21 Workshops in Toronto" playbill.com, August 20, 1999
  3. ^ Dezell, Maureen. "Bad Reviews May Have Helped 'Seussical' (article summary)" Boston Globe (Boston, MA) (highbeam.com), September 22, 2000
  4. ^ a b "Production Credits". Internet Broadway Database. Retrieved 2008-03-10. 
  5. ^ Hinckley, David. "Rosie's 'Seussical' Roars O'Donnell the cat's meow as her 4-week run opens" New York Daily News, January 17, 2001
  6. ^ "Seussical is a Charming Musical". TalkinBroadway.com. Retrieved 2008-03-10. 
  7. ^ "Rewritten and Ready, a New Touring Seussical Flies – Literally – Sept. 17 in Indy". Playbill. September 17, 2002. Retrieved 2008-03-10. 
  8. ^ "New Seussical Tour Launches Oct. 10 in a Town With a Name Worthy of Dr. Seuss: Yakima". Playbill. October 10, 2003. Retrieved 2008-03-10. 
  9. ^ Andrew Gans (16 July 2007). Lortel_July_16 "Free 90-Minute Seussical Begins Run at the Lucille Lortel July 16". Retrieved 25 November 2009. 
  10. ^ Greg Kalafatas (19 July 2007). "PHOTO CALL: Seussical Off-Broadway". Retrieved 25 November 2009. 
  11. ^ "The Stage". Newspaper. Retrieved 2012-10-01. 
  12. ^ http://www.whatsonstage.com/west-end-theatre/news/06-2013/seussical-returns-to-arts-theatre-this-christmas_30883.html. Retrieved 29 June 2013.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  13. ^ Listing lortel.org, accessed July 25, 2010

External links[edit]