Producing Suessical the Musical

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Seussical the Musical Poster
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Suessical the Musical By Meredith Wilson

GENRE: Musical

Performance length: about 2 and ½ hrs. with a 15-minute intermission.

ACTING: Easy

MUSIC: Medium

SET DESIGN: Medium

COSTUME DESIGN: Medium

CAST POTENTIAL: This play – composed of many famous Dr. Seuss stories, such as The Cat in the Hat and Horton Hears a Who – should delight a cast ready to walk in the footsteps of their favorite childhood characters.

You can buy this artwork and use it for your own production of “Suessical the Musical” click here

CROWD REACTION: This play has been a commercial hit in the high school, community, and regional theatre circuit. Its appeal transgresses age, mystifying children and reuniting adults with classic tales from their past.

SUMMARY: Seussical the Musical is a patchwork of some 17 Dr. Seuss stories, though the predominant story arc is based on Horton Hears a Who. The Cat in the Hat serves as a narrator who takes the audience through two worlds, the jungle where Horton lives, and the small speck of dust which is home to the Whos. These two worlds collide when Horton hears a cry from the tiny speck on the flower. His challenge is to prove to the jungle world that there actually is a whole world of people on that flower, and that a “person is a person, no matter how small.”

CASTING CONSIDERATIONS: The cast is considerably large, featuring characters such as Gertrude McFuzz, Sour Kangaroo, The Grinch, Yertle the Turtle, the Lorax, the Whos, and Circus performers. Therefore, depending on the size of your cast, there should be plenty of opportunity for many of your actors to play multiple rolls.

These characters live in a world of heightened sensibility, whose energy and color leap off the stage (as they do in the book). But that heightened sensibility can be quickly taken too far. Ben Brantley said, of the original Broadway performance, that the cast looked “as if they had just stuck their fingers in electrical sockets.” Because there are so many characters, too many to relate with, the cast needs to find a fine balance between heightened energy and relatable human qualities.

SCENIC CONSIDERATIONS: Obviously this musical offers an exciting challenge for scenic designers who get to recreate the scenery and wardrobe of all the characters in the book. The biggest question a designer needs to ask is, “How closely should your design resemble that of Seuss’s work?” While an air of familiarity is required (especially with those well known characters, such as Cat in the Hat), Seussical beckons a design team to be creative and playful with their choices.

OTHER CONSIDERATIONS: Many critics panned the show for having too much “razzle dazzle,” claiming the production tried to do “too much.” Many would have preferred a more simple design scheme, such as that from the highly praised You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown. I concede to Seuss’s books for inspiration. Each is fanciful but austere in execution. The stories, characters, and language are enough to wow an audience. Adding too much spectacle is a discredit to the quality of the musical’s source.

PERSONAL REFLECTIONS: While there are glaring flaws with the musical — the story is far too piecemealed together – the show also exhibits many strengths that can be harnessed by a good production. Dr. Seuss’s words are tailored made for a musical, and many songs highlight the rhyming cadence of Seuss’s stories to perfection. I feel that Seussical is best shown as a retrospective of Dr. Seuss’s imaginative collection of stories. The cast and crews challenge is to string these stories together to remind us of all the “thinks we can think” with Seuss in the room.

About Matthew McMahan

Matthew McMahan is an actor, writer, and dramaturg, who has worked both in New York and regionally for theatre companies such as the Wooster Group, the Atlantic Theatre Company, the Indiana Repertory Theatre, Young Playwrights, Inc., and the Living Newspaper. He is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in Drama from Tufts University in Medford, MA.
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