In the lively, whimsical and thought-provoking style of Dr. Seuss, Crater High School tonight opens a run of "Seussical the Musical," based on the famed cartoonist's "Horton Hears a Who" and other stories.
The musical pulls in kids in the fourth grade on up, uses '60s Motown sounds and seeks to make the point that "a person's a person, no matter how small," says director Rebecca Campbell.
The production is the school's first in the Crater Performing Arts Center since a water main broke in February, closing the school for a week. The theater itself was not damaged.
Rehearsing the song "Oh, the Thinks You Can Think" at the Performing Arts Center, members of cast and crew fondly recalled growing up with Dr. Seuss and absorbing the values expressed in his dozens of humorous morality tales.
"This musical's message is to listen to what people have to say and understand them," says freshman Alex Shadle, who plays the elephant Horton. "I have such deep respect for him. I never realized till I was older that a lot of the values I hold dear, I took from his books. I loved every single one of them."
The show premiered on Broadway in 2000. It portrayed an elephant, Horton, protecting tiny Whos living on a speck of dust. Because of his big ears, only he can hear their fearful cries.
Jillian Worley, a seventh-grader at Scenic Middle School, plays microscopic JoJo, who is sent to military school because she "isn't logical and boring, but imagines things." This, says Jillian, is a message supporting kids to be themselves, even if they are nonconformists.
It was also a shot at the Cold War of those times — 1954, says Campbell, with the conflict being about how the enemy buttered toast.
"It's such a different way to look at the world," says stage manager Bethany Hutsell, a senior. "He created a whole new genre of art and literature. He says we have to look at everyone's perspective to get the full picture that we may not understand from just our perspective."
Playing the Cat in the Hat, junior Shaundra Cook says the musical uses very accessible language, almost all of it sung, to get across the message of how to be a good person.
"You'll laugh and then after you go home, you think about what it really means," says Shaundra, a player in several Camelot Theatre productions.
"It may look like a child's book, but Dr. Seuss is very intelligent. He connects his themes to what's going on in history and he tells us to be kind to each other," says sophomore Caitlin Rae Campbell, portrayer of tiny Gertrude McFuzz, who falls in love with the elephant.
The musical draws a lot of community support in contributions, time and materials, says Campbell, a social studies and English teacher and artistic associate at Camelot in Talent.
It opens tonight, running at 7 p.m. Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays through April 20 at the Performing Arts Center, 655 N. Third St. Tickets are $12 general, $7 for students and seniors.
John Darling is a freelance writer living in Ashland. E-mail him at email@example.com.