News Column

'Seussical the Musical': CVTG production encompasses best of children's author's stories

June 27, 2013

YellowBrix

June 27--From the Jungle of Nool to the teeny tiny planet of Who, the vast and fantastic world of Dr. Seuss is coming to The State Theatre, all rolled into one convenient tale just for you.

The Chippewa Valley Theatre Guild's "Seussical the Musical" kicks off tonight at 7:30 and runs through Saturday, with additional 1:30 p.m. performances Saturday and Sunday.

"Seussical," which was written by Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty and debuted on Broadway in 2000, takes two of the beloved children's author's most well-known stories and sprinkles in elements of many others.

A mashup of "Horton Hears a Who" and "Horton Hatches an Egg" lays the foundation for the story. But what kind of Dr. Seuss show could do without the mischievous Cat in the Hat? Or the infamous Grinch? Or green eggs and ham?

"They had to figure out how you could make a show out of Dr. Seuss when there's so many different stories," said CVTG director Mike Cook. "So they decided to take two of the most well-known shows and mix them together into one, and then add other characters to them.

"So around that story of those two mashed together, we have all the characters we all know and love."

The show's tendency to jump back and forth between various planes of existence, including the depths of one youngster's imagination, lends itself to some pretty eye-catching backdrops and, of course, plenty of colorful costumes. And given its silly nature, the script can be open to some interpretation -- especially if you're The Cat in the Hat.

"The great thing about playing The Cat in the Hat is any of my crazy and ridiculous ideas are not that ridiculous," said Nathan Libby. "I can do any kind of goofy things that pop into my mind and it's totally in character.

"If the audience is laughing, I can justify it."

But other cast members say the show isn't all fun and games.

Much like Seuss' books, the musical carries underlying themes of keeping promises, responsibility and being loyal.

And for adults willing to listen, there is some deeper meaning as well. Take for example a war started by people who like their bread buttered side up who will not stand for people who like their bread buttered side down.

"There is social commentary wrapped around some of the things (the character Jojo is) involved with," Cook said. "It's basically a commentary on the silliness of war.

"And the kids aren't going to quite catch that, I think that's directed squarely at the adults, wrapped in a children's story."

"Seussical the Musical" also features a variety of musical numbers from start to end, including everything from honky-tonk piano and mariachi numbers to a Beach Boys song.

Greg Kernkamp, who plays Horton, said the production has a little something for every generation.

"Obviously Dr. Seuss' books were written for kids, but grown-ups like to read them just as much because they're fun," he said. "The writers in the show did a great job incorporating a lot of the books into one thing, so even the casual Seuss reader will pick up on the various references."

Hanson can be reached at 715-833-9206, 800-236-7077 or rob.hanson@ecpc.com.

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