As Dr. Seuss proclaimed, “You have brains in your head, and feet in your shoes! You can steer yourself any direction you choose!”
So why not steer yourself to MCT Center for the Performing Arts Dec. 5-22 for Missoula Community Theatre’s production of the musical Seussical?
Based on the works of Dr. Seuss, Seussical is the brainchild of Monty Python’s Eric Idle and the award-winning composing team of Stephen Flaherty and Lynn Ahrens. The ubiquitous Cat in the Hat and the mischievous Thing 1 and Thing 2 effortlessly weave together the stories of some of Seuss’ most endearing characters.
Director Andy Meyers notes that although a musical featuring all the whimsical characters from the world of Dr. Seuss might initially appeal to a younger audience, Seussical is an entertaining treasure for people of all sizes.
“The music is infectious, and while the overall story is fun, bright and energetic, there is also tremendous heart and many important messages about acceptance and family,” he says.
Meet the big-hearted Horton the Elephant who is faithfully protecting Mayzie LaBird’s egg, and a lonely Who child named JoJo. Along the way, the shy Gertrude McFuzz, Yertle the Turtle, and the Sour Kangaroo make Horton’s journey even more of an adventure.
According to Meyers, the Seussical script invites “imaginative and zany directing concepts, and the cast has jumped right in,” bringing plenty of talent and an audacious spirit to the production.
It’s been particularly rewarding to watch real-life siblings, Alexa and Ian McLean, split the role of JoJo, the lonesome young Who. “They are very different as the central character,” he says, and each manages to make the character their own. “It’s also nice to watch how the adult actors stay on their toes to keep the show fresh, based on having an alternating JoJo.”
Meyers notes that he and the scenic designer, Jay Michael Roberts, both spend their summers working at the Fort Peck Summer Theatre, and began collaborating on the scenic design then. “We really wanted to stay true to the original Dr. Seuss illustrations.”
Productions of Seussical often feature bold, almost neon-bright sets. “But Jay, who is an awesome designer and artist, was able to keep the original feel, shapes and pastel colors of the books,” says Meyers. Visitors who have seen the design in progress “are always shocked how the specific aesthetic takes them instantly back to the nostalgia of the books.”
And the set itself “feels itself feels like a giant jungle gym, with unique entrances for all the different iconic characters.”
Perhaps the words of the sly but wise Cat in the Hat most aptly illustrate the Seussical experience: “There is no telling what may ensue, with a Cat such as me, and a thinker like you!”
Show times are 7:30 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays, 2 and 7:30 p.m. Saturdays and 2 and 6:30 p.m. Sundays, Dec. 5-22.
Tickets for Seussical are available at MCTinc.org, by calling 406-728-PLAY(7529); or at the MCT Box Office, which is open 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Mondays-Friday.