“Seussical,” a sung-through musical based on the children’s stories of Dr. Seuss, and also known as “The Cat in the Hat,” premiered in 2000. The reviews were not stellar, but that did not stop the show from embarking on two U.S. national shows and being a staple of school and regional productions.
With music by Stephen Flaherty, lyrics by Lynn Ahrens and a book by both, “Seussical” is coming soon to one of the area community theaters: Rockville Musical Theatre (RMT).
Based primarily on the story “Horton Hears a Who” but incorporating several others, the show’s appeal is self-evident, said Lee Michele Rosenthal, who is directing.
“The stories are definitely family-friendly,” she said.
Aside from the love many children and their families have for the stories of Dr. Seuss, Rosenthal pointed out that the message of the musical is one many people seem to need these days, which is the acceptance of those who are different.
The cast of “Seussical” at RMT is a mixed one age-wise, including youngsters under 13, and according to Rosenthal, “it’s fun to see the camaraderie among them as well as among youngsters with acting experience and not.
“We got lucky, with a really lot of talented kids,” she said. “We have a lot of newbies, who did school but not community theater, and we’re seeing them blossom.”
Rosenthal brings extensive directing experience to the show, including the staging of the community theater’s previous production, “Heathers.” She has been the president of Rockville Musical Theatre for many years, and her son has become active in the theater.
The biggest challenge in directing this show is the large number of cast members which is the largest one she has ever assembled, said Rosenthal.
In contrast, Colleen Prior, the choreographer, is making her debut at RMT, though she had choreographed extensively for community theaters in the Miami area for several years.
“I then took some time off from choreography for grad school and am just getting back into it with ‘Seussical,’” she said.
What drew her to choose “Seussical” as the vehicle with which to return to the art form?
“I love that this show provides almost complete creative freedom in terms of choreography,” she said. “Because it’s a show that is meant to be visually appealing, it allows me to play with different kinds of movement, formations, etc.
“I also love that the ensemble is so large that gives me the opportunity to design dances for large groups with a variety of dance backgrounds, and really gives me the opportunity to layer the dances in terms of choreography and make them look complex and interesting.”
At the same time, Prior said, having almost 40 people on stage at once – a lot of bodies in a relatively small space – can be a big challenge. Plus, she added, the cast is a mix of kids, teens and adults.
“It’s the most age-diverse cast I’ve ever worked with, which has been so much fun,” Prior said.
Challenging or not, Prior added that she expects the show to be a lot of fun to watch for the audience, especially its young members.
“I expect them to feel a sense of excitement that doesn’t fade as the show progresses, but rather grows with each number. I hope I’ve made the dances interesting enough,” she said.
The music director is Sam Weich. Other stories that Seussical incorporates include “How the Grinch Stole Christmas,” “Horton Hatches the Egg,” “The Cat in the Hat” and “Oh, the Places You’ll Go!,” among many others.
“Seussical” runs Oct. 25-Nov. 10 at the F. Scott Fitzgerald Theatre, 603 Edmonston Drive, Rockville.