Dr. Seuss needs no introduction. The famed author has done as much to shape the last five or six generations of children as any of their parents. Of course, his success is not limited to just books. His works have also inspired countless animated TV specials, movies, children's edutainment shows and even a theme park in Orlando.
With all the media that he has inspired, it only makes sense that Dr. Seuss’ works would inspire a Broadway musical, which they did with “Seussical” in 2000. One rendition can be seen over the next two weekends as the newest Benicia High School Panther Production.
“Seussical” is this semester’s spring musical at Benicia High. However, it is not the first time this play has been performed at the school, as it was also the spring musical back in 2007.
“It’s the only play or musical that I’ve ever repeated in 17 years,” director Christine Mani said. “I decided to do it again because it perfectly fit the actors we have on hand. We have a lot of performers who are ready to push to the next level and have a part with a name.”
However, this will not be the same “Seussical” that audiences saw in 2007. This version is more modern, with visual references to cellphones, video games and reality TV, although the script itself is largely the same.
“We have it set in the very modern day, what would happen if Dr. Seuss wrote his books now and the technology we have available for us,” Mani said. “It’s still definitely a show that’s OK for kids, but it has a lot of references and enjoyment for the more mature humor.”
The story centers around Horton, played by Hamish Dinsdale. The curious elephant discovers a speck of dust on which the inhabitants of a planet called Whoogle live. One of the citizens is a beta tester named Jojo (Pilar Gonzales) who tries to invent a new phone app but is punished for his individualism-- i.e., thinking too many “thinks.” In the meantime, Horton has to guard an egg left by vain reality TV star Mayzie La Bird (Maya Singh Sharkey).
As one can tell by the synopsis, the story is largely based on “Horton Hears a Who” and “Horton Hatches the Egg,” but the musical is filled to the brim with references and characters from other Dr. Seuss stories from “The Cat in the Hat” to “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” to “Gertrude McFuzz.” According to Mani, seeing these characters again, even in a new setting, will remind audiences of just how timeless Seuss’ works are.
“It really is an honest story,” she said. “On the surface level, Dr. Seuss books seem very child-like, but they always have a very strong message behind them that doesn’t hit you over the head. It’s just one of those things that makes you say ‘Oh yeah’ and just agree with it.”
“It does have those child-like elements in it that remind you of your youth,” she added.
In addition to the hard work of the cast, director and set designers, the play will also utilize the talents of vocal director Vivian McLaughlin choreographers Staci Arriaga and Kevin Gruwell, and a live orchestra that performs backstage. The collaborative efforts of all will result in a show that everybody should go to- even if your name happens to be Marvin K. Mooney.
“It’s colorful characters, lots of wonderful music, the dancing is superb, the singing is just fantastic and the story is relatable for people of all ages,” Mani said. “Even if people have seen it, it’s definitely a different ‘Seussical’ than anyone’s seen before.”
“Seussical” will be performed on Friday, April 22 and 29 and Saturday, April 23 and 30 at 7 p.m. and Sunday, April 24 and May 1 at 2 p.m. All shows will be held in the school’s Performing Arts Building, located at 1101 Military West. Tickets are $14 for adults and $8 for students. There will be a $2 discount for tickets purchased in advance. Tickets can be purchased at the door or at BeniciaHighPerformingArts.org. For more information, call the school at 747-8325.
(All photos by Nick Sestanovich)
Mayzie La Bird, played by Maya Singh Sharkey, holds the egg that Horton the Elephant, played by Hamish Hinsdale, sat on for 51 weeks.
Mayzie (Left) relaxes in Palm Beach with her assistant Renee the Beautician (Sydney Chow), leaving Horton to hatch the egg she laid.