Seussical

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Seussical
Seussical (logo).png
MusicStephen Flaherty
LyricsLynn Ahrens
BookLynn Ahrens
Stephen Flaherty
BasisThe works of Dr. Seuss
Productions2000 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. It is based on the children's stories of Dr. Seuss, with most of its plot being based on Horton Hears a Who! while incorporating many other stories. The musical's name is a portmanteau of "Seuss" and musical. After its Broadway debut in 2000, it has spawned two US national tours and a West End production, and has become a frequent production for schools and regional theatres.

Plot[edit]

This synopsis describes the tour version of the show, currently being licensed as "Seussical the Musical" by Music Theatre International (MTI).[1]

Act I[edit]

The show opens on a bare stage, save for an odd red-and-white-striped hat in the center. A small boy wanders into view and notices the hat, wondering who it might belong to. He finally mentions the Cat in the Hat, who appears before the Boy and tells him he has been brought to life by the Boy's "Thinks". The Cat creates the "Seussian" world and characters around himself and the Boy ("Oh, the Thinks You Can Think!"), then reveals he is about to tell a story about someone as imaginative as the Boy is.

To begin the story, the Cat encourages the Boy to Think up the Jungle of Nool, where Horton the Elephant is bathing. Horton hears a strange noise coming from a nearby speck of dust, and reasons that there must be someone on it, calling out for help. He carefully places the speck on a soft clover and decides to guard it ("Horton Hears a Who"), but is mocked mercilessly by the Sour Kangaroo and the other animals of the jungle, who do not believe him ("Biggest Blame Fool"). The only exceptions are Horton's bird neighbors, Gertrude McFuzz, who admires his compassion, and Mayzie LaBird, who is more concerned about herself.

Horton soon discovers that the speck is actually a microscopic planet populated by creatures called Whos. The citizens of Who-ville introduce themselves and their yearly Christmas pageant directed by their friend the Grinch, but also reveal that in addition to being unable to control where the speck flies, they are on the brink of war and their entire population of Truffula Trees has been cut down ("Here on Who"). The Whos thank Horton and ask for his protection, and he agrees to guard their planet.

At this point, the Cat pushes the Boy into the story; he becomes Jojo, the son of the Mayor of Who-ville and his wife. Jojo has been getting into trouble at school for having Thinks, so his parents order him to "take a bath and go to bed, and Think some normal Thinks instead."[1] Jojo blames the Cat for getting him into trouble and tries to send him away. The Cat refuses and persuades Jojo to imagine the tub is McElligot's Pool ("It's Possible"). Jojo inadvertently floods the house, leading the Mayor and his wife to contemplate what to do with their son ("How to Raise a Child"). When the Cat hands them a brochure, they decide to send Jojo to a military school run by General Genghis Khan Schmitz, who is preparing to go to war with those who eat their bread with the butter side down ("The Military"). While there, Jojo meets Horton, and finds a mutual friend in him ("Alone in the Universe").

Gertrude, meanwhile, has fallen in love with Horton, but is afraid he does not notice her because of her own tail, which consists of only "one droopy-droop feather" ("The One Feather Tail of Miss Gertrude McFuzz"). At the advice of Mayzie, whose tail is enormous and dazzling, she consumes pills which make her tail grow new feathers. Gertrude is so excited that she overdoses, causing her tail to grow long and unwieldy ("Amayzing Mayzie"/"Amazing Gertrude").

Horton is ambushed by the Wickersham Brothers, a gang of delinquent monkeys, who steal the clover and make off with it ("Monkey Around"). Horton gives chase until the Wickershams hand the clover to an eagle named Vlad Vladikoff, who drops it into a large patch of identical clovers ("Chasing the Whos"). Here, the Cat cuts briefly into the action to remind the audience how lucky they are to not be Horton ("How Lucky You Are"). Undeterred, Horton begins to look for the clover, hoping the Whos are still alive, when Gertrude catches up with him and tries to get him to notice her new tail. Horton is too busy, so she leaves to take more pills ("Notice Me, Horton").

Horton is about to search his three millionth clover when he loses hope. Mayzie, sitting in a nearby tree, offers to help him forget about the Whos by hatching an egg that she is too lazy to care for ("How Lucky You Are (Reprise)"). Horton reluctantly agrees, and Mayzie leaves for a vacation. Horton sits through months of harsh weather as he tries to decide between the egg and the Whos ("Horton Sits on the Egg") before he is captured by hunters, who take him away along with the entire tree. Gertrude tries to stop the hunters, but cannot fly due to her heavy tail.

The Cat closes the act with a reprise of "How Lucky You Are", and conducts the band during the intermission.

Act II[edit]

Horton, still hatching the egg, is auctioned off to the traveling Circus McGurkus ("Egg, Nest, and Tree"/"Circus McGurkus"/"How Lucky You Are (Reprise)"). At one show in Palm Beach, he meets up with Mayzie, who insists that he keep the egg for himself before leaving ("Amayzing Horton"). Horton mourns the loss of the Whos and Jojo, but vows just as surely to protect the egg as it too is alone without its mother ("Alone in the Universe (Reprise)"), and sings it a lullaby about a magical place called Solla Sollew. At the same time, the Mayor and his wife begin to miss Horton and Jojo, and wish for Solla Sollew as well ("Solla Sollew").

Jojo is with General Schmitz and his platoon as the Butter Battle commences. Jojo deserts Schmitz, but sprints into a minefield and vanishes in an explosion. Schmitz assumes the worst and heads to Who-ville to tell Jojo's parents that their son has died. In reality, Jojo has survived, but is lost with no idea of where to turn. The Cat appears to him with a band of Hunches, encouraging him to use his Thinks to find his way home ("Havin' a Hunch"). Jojo does so and happily reunites with his parents, who forgive him for his Thinks.

Gertrude sneaks into the circus to free Horton, explaining she plucked out all but one of her tail feathers to fly there, and confesses her love for him. She also reveals she has found his clover, delighting and relieving Horton to find the Whos alive and well ("All For You"). However, the Sour Kangaroo and the Wickersham Brothers arrive to take Horton back to the jungle.

In the jungle, Horton is put on trial for the crimes of "talking to a speck, disturbing the peace, and loitering... on an egg" [1] ("The People Versus Horton the Elephant"). Aided by Gertrude, Horton makes his best case, but Judge Yertle the Turtle finds him guilty. He orders Horton remanded to the "Nool Asylum for the Criminally Insane" and the clover destroyed in a kettle of hot "Beezle-Nut" oil.[1] Desperate, Horton encourages the Whos to make as much noise as possible to prove their existence, but the animals do not hear them. Jojo finally uses his Thinks to conjure a new word, "Yopp", which he shouts loudly enough to reach the animals' ears.

Finally convinced, the animals repent and promise to help protect the Whos, and Horton is acquitted. Jojo is accepted by his parents and the rest of Who-ville as "Thinker Non-Stop" for saving their planet. Horton's egg hatches into a tiny flying "Elephant-Bird", amazing everyone but dismaying Horton, who panics at the thought of flying progeny. Gertrude reassures him that they can raise the child together, and they agree to do so.

With the story finished, the Cat returns to close the show ("Finale"/"Oh, the Thinks You Can Think!"), then vanishes along with the scenery, leaving his hat and Jojo, who is now the Boy again. The Boy picks the hat up, dons it, and says, "Seuss!"

During a curtain call, the company performs a number based on Green Eggs and Ham ("Green Eggs and Ham").

Characters[edit]

Major characters

  • The Cat in the Hat – the narrator of the story and the Boy's guide. The Cat also appears as the following minor characters:
    • The Bailiff - during "The People Versus Horton the Elephant"
    • Mr. McGurkus - owner of the Circus McGurkus during "Egg, Nest, and Tree"
    • Jose the Pool Boy - during "How Lucky You Are (Reprise)"
    • Doctor Dake - during "Amazing Gertrude"
    • Louie Armstrong/Piano Player
    • The Grinch and Vlad Vladikoff in some productions
  • Jojo/the Boy – an imaginative and misunderstood young boy.
  • Horton the Elephant – a compassionate and determined elephant.
  • Gertrude McFuzz – a shy bird who falls in love with Horton and endeavors to help him.
  • Mayzie LaBird – Horton's vivacious yet lazy and self-centered bird neighbor.
  • Sour Kangaroo – the ill-mannered governor of the Jungle of Nool; she carries a Young Kangaroo with her that is often represented by a puppet.
  • The Bird Girls - Mayzie's friends, who act as a Greek chorus.
  • The Wickersham Brothers – a group of delinquent monkeys who serve as the Sour Kangaroo's henchmen.

Minor characters

  • General Genghis Khan Schmitz – a warmonger during the Butter Battle.
  • Mr. Mayor - the newly-elected mayor of Who-ville and Jojo's father.
  • Mrs. Mayor - the Mayor's wife and Jojo's mother.
  • The Grinch - a notable resident of Who-ville who is responsible for organizing the Christmas pageant.
  • The Elephant-Bird - Horton and Gertrude's adoptive child, who hatches from the egg.
  • Yertle the Turtle - the judge who presides over the Jungle of Nool's court.
  • Vlad Vladikoff - a sinister "black-bottomed" eagle.
  • The Hunters - Horton's captors who sell him to the circus.

Ensemble

  • Whos - citizens of Who-ville.
  • Cadets - members of Schmitz's platoon.
  • Jungle Creatures - chorus and dancers in jungle scenes.
  • Hunches - dancers in "Havin' a Hunch".
  • Circus Animals - the animals of the Circus McGurkus.
  • Fish - residents of McElligot's Pool during "It's Possible".

Musical numbers[edit]

* = Lyrics by Lynn Ahrens and Dr. Seuss
** = Not present in current full version
*** = Not present in original Broadway version ^ = Not present on cast recording

Contributing Dr. Seuss books[edit]

Seussical incorporates the following Dr. Seuss stories:

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]

An extensive sequence adapting The Lorax was seen in the original script, which involved Jojo meeting the Once-ler after deserting the army, and receiving the last Truffula Tree seed from him, giving him the courage to save Who-ville. Relevant characters included the Lorax himself as well as Bar-ba-loots, Swomee-Swans, and Humming-Fish, who would all appear and disappear as the Once-ler told his story. The sequence faced numerous difficulties due to the show's already lengthy running time, and was ultimately cut entirely after its Boston tryout. As of 2013, MTI has begun offering the sequence as an independent "mini-musical", advertising it on the back of Seussical librettos and scripts.

Broadway[edit]

Seussical opened on Broadway at the Richard Rodgers Theatre on November 30, 2000.[4] It was directed by Frank Galati and choreographed by Kathleen Marshall. Marshall's brother Rob Marshall was hired to direct the show when it returned to Broadway from Boston, though was uncredited. David Shiner played the Cat in the Hat, while Kevin Chamberlin played Horton, Michele Pawk played Mayzie LaBird, Stuart Zagnit and Alice Playten played Mr. and Mrs. Mayor, and Sharon Wilkins played the Sour Kangaroo. Shiner was replaced throughout the run by celebrities such as Rosie O'Donnell[5] and Cathy Rigby. The Broadway production received mixed reviews, with criticism being directed at the plot and large cast of characters.[6] It closed on May 20, 2001, after 198 performances and 34 previews.[4]

US tours[edit]

Following the Broadway production, there were two US national tours. Rigby reprised her role as the Cat for the first in 2002–03, and the second toured in 2003–04.[7][8]

The script for the first tour was reworked extensively after the show's poor showing on Broadway, resulting in the removal or reworking of several songs. The biggest change involved Jojo, who was now initially an anonymous boy before the Cat pushed him into the story. Additional dialogue was included, and some songs and their reprises were cut. This version of the show is the one currently licensed by MTI as Seussical the Musical.

Off-Broadway[edit]

A 90-minute Off-Broadway production was staged at the Lucille Lortel Theatre in 2007 by Theatreworks USA. It was directed and choreographed by Marcia Milgrom Dodge. [9][10] This production was downscaled for the National Tour, which had its last show in spring 2014.

West End (London)[edit]

Seussical opened on the West End at the Arts Theatre on December 4, 2012, presented by Selladoor Worldwide. [11] It returned in 2013.[12]

One-act versions[edit]

A one-act version of the Broadway show titled Seussical Jr. has been created as part of MTI's Jr. series. It is intended to be shorter and more accessible for junior high or middle school students, and has an average run time of 60 minutes.[13]

For Jr., various songs are cut and shortened; the subplots based on The Butter Battle Book and How the Grinch Stole Christmas!, and their relevant songs and characters, are removed to make the story more understandable for younger audiences, though the Grinch retains one line during the song "Here on Who". General Schmitz is replaced in "Oh, the Thinks You Can Think!" by the Wickersham Brothers. A additional musical number based on Dr. Seuss's ABC is present, along with the relevant characters Ichabod and Izzy.

In 2004, Seussical was reworked into a "Theatre for Young America" version. The cast is reduced to 12 actors, with the plot changed to focus more on Horton.[14]

Awards and honors[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 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[15] 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. ^ a b c d Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flagherty (Nov 2017). "Seussical the Musical!" (PDF). iptheater.com. Immeasurable Productions. Retrieved May 27, 2018.
  2. ^ Jones, Kenneth and Lefkowitz, David. "Livent Hears a Who: Seussical Has Aug. 20–21 Workshops in Toronto" playbill.com, August 20, 1999, accessed December 2, 2016
  3. ^ Dezell, Maureen (September 22, 2000). "Bad Reviews May Have Helped 'Seussical'". Boston Globe. Boston, MA. Retrieved 2017-12-05 – via HighBeam.
  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"[permanent dead link] 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. Archived from the original on December 15, 2008. 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. Archived from the original on December 15, 2008. Retrieved 2008-03-10.
  9. ^ Gans, Andrew (July 16, 2007). "Free 90-Minute Seussical Begins Run at the Lucille Lortel July 16". Playbill. Retrieved 2017-12-05.
  10. ^ Greg Kalafatas (19 July 2007). "PHOTO CALL: Seussical Off-Broadway". Archived from the original on 12 September 2012. Retrieved 25 November 2009.
  11. ^ "The Stage". Newspaper. Retrieved 2012-10-01.
  12. ^ "Seussical returns to Arts Theatre this Christmas". 4 Jun 2013. Retrieved 2017-12-05.
  13. ^ "Seussical JR". Music Theatre International. Retrieved 2017-12-05.
  14. ^ Ahrens, Lynn (October 1, 2005). "There's Another Think There! the Rise and Fall ... and Rise of Seussical". American Theatre – via HighBeam.
  15. ^ Listing Archived 2011-11-25 at the Wayback Machine. lortel.org, accessed July 25, 2010

External links[edit]