One of Dr. Seuss’ most iconic stories is “Horton Hears a Who!” which is also the primary basis of “Seussical the Musical,” the on-the-road version of the earlier musical just called “Seussical.” A sung-through show, it was written by Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty.
It was not, however, the original show Adventure Theatre was going to present for its summer production. That musical was “Urinetown,” set in a dystopian world.
However, the theater switched plans once it hired Monique Midgette, who was in the original Broadway production and national tour of the show.
“I love the show,” said Midgette. “There’s so much heart, and it shines through. It speaks to all ages.”
Midgette was 30 when she appeared in the original “Seussical.” The show also has many themes – imagination, believing in oneself and listening to the voice inside – and is performed frequently by schools, she said.
Since the merger in 2012 between Adventure Theatre and Musical Theater Center, the joint organization (ATMTC) offers both professional productions for children acted by adults, as well as children’s productions acted by youngsters but with professional production teams.
“Seussical the Musical” is a professionally run show performed by kids, said Margo Brenner Collins, director of education at Adventure Theatre.
These musicals are done twice a year, for kids in grades 6-12.
In directing shows with a kids cast, said Midgette, the theater wants to make sure the kids have lots of experience with improv and a sense of play. “They’re often in a big hurry to grow up,” she laughed.
Despite the animal-centered plot of “Seussical,” the actors in this production are more human, with only a few touches of their characters’ identities in their costumes.
“A lot feels like sketch comedy, from Saturday Night Live. We push kids to think outside the box,” said Midgette.
Playing many roles is Gabrielle Witte, an incoming junior at Magruder High School. Her previous roles include Wickersham, Bird Girl, Hunch, Circus Attendee and Ballet Fish.
This is Witte’s fifth year at the Academy but her fourth in the professional company of Adventure Theatre, where she has appeared in “Thoroughly Modern Millie” and “Hairspray.”
She also has appeared in productions outside ATMTC.
“What I like the most about ‘Seussical’ is the people,” Witte said. “I have met so many amazing people, and they have all become great friends, and they are so much fun to be with all day every day.”
The toughest part, she added, is the “quick turnaround of this show. We only have three weeks of rehearsal, and one week of tech to put this show on its feet. This means that we work at a really fast pace.”
Anna Berkowitz, entering sixth grade at Westland Middle School, has one role in “Seussical”: that of Jojo, the mayor’s son.
“One of the things I love about Jojo is the bond we create with (our characters) onstage. I love having a character who has such strong relationships with the other characters,” Berkowitz said. “One of the toughest parts of my role is just being amazed about everything in each scene, because my character created this amazing world, and I have to show that every time by learning something new in every scene.”
Berkowitz has participated in many theater summer camps and classes for a long time. This will be her third year in Adventure Theatre’s pre-professional company.
“I have been in several shows, including ‘The Wizard of Oz,’ ‘The Little Mermaid,’ ‘Hairspray,’ ‘Shrek The Musical,’ ‘Fee Fi Fo Fum!’ and ‘It’s a Jungle Out There,’” she said.
Performances of “Seussical the Musical” are Aug. 30 at 7 p.m.: Aug. 31 at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. and Sept. 1 at 2 p.m., at Adventure Theatre, 7300 MacArthur Bvld., Glen Echo. For more information, check out www.adventuretheatre-mtc.org.