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“Suessical The Musical”, Colorful Popular Show Based on Characters of Dr. Suess, Opens at Lees-McRae Theatre

By Greg Hince

June 28, 2012. The wonderful world of Dr. Suess will come to life this weekend as Lees-McRae College Summer Theatre opens for the 2012 season with their charming take on “Seussical The Musical,” a well-known Broadway family favorite full of the most colorful characters from the famous works of Dr. Seuss. 

“Seussical” features characters like Horton the Elephant, The Cat in the Hat, Gertrude McFuzz , Lazy Mayzie and young boy named Jo-Jo who transport audiences from the Jungle of Nool to the Circus McGurkus and to the invisible world of the Whos.

The “host and MC” is none other than The Cat in the Hat himself, but the story is centered on Horton. Horton is challenged with guarding an egg while protecting all the people of Whoville, all of who live inside a speck of dust. According to Lees-McRae’s website The Cat in the Hat is “an outside observer, a narrator and devil’s advocate throughout the show, briefly leaping into the action on several occasions to create conflict and keep the story moving.”

“Seussical” is one of the most performed musicals across the country, and has spawned “Seussical Jr.” versions. Time magazine reported the show was the second most commonly performed in US high schools in 2007, and the Watauga High Drama Department put on their version over a 3-night stand early this year.

The show promises to make audiences laugh and cry as the powers of friendship, loyalty, family and community are challenged, but emerge triumphant.

“It’s the funniest play I’ve ever directed,” Director Janet Speer said.

Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty, the creative team who collaborated on “Ragtime,” wrote the production. The amalgamation of Seuss’s work opened on Broadway in 2000 and closed on May 20, 2001 after 198 performances and 34 previews. Throughout the run, there were many celebrities who played the role of The Cat in the Hat, including Rosie O’Donnell and Cathy Rigby, and earned Kevin Chamberlain a Tony Award nomination for Best Actor in a Musical.

The show has consistently received overall positive reviews, and the 42 votes on ticketmaster.com give it and average of 4.1 out of 5 stars. 

After the Broadway run, the production spawned two US national tours and a UK tour and has become a favorite of community and school theatres.

Show times for “Seussical” are June 27-30 at 7:30 p.m., June 28 at 10 a.m. and June 30 and July 1 at 2 p.m.

The performance is the first in a series of 3 musicals the Summer Theatre will be putting on.

It will also be presenting “See How They Run,” a 1940’s English comedy full of tense comic situations and headlong humor. Dates for those performances are July 13-14 and July 18-20 at 7:30 p.m. and July 18-19 at 2 p.m.

Rounding out the 2012 season is a series of rendition of “Show Boat,” which the theatre called “perhaps the most influential musical of the twentieth century.” Based on Edna Ferber’s bestselling novel of the same name, the musical follows the lives of the performers, stagehands, and dockworkers on the Cotton Blossom, a Mississippi River showboat, from 1880 to 1927. Show times for “Show Boat” are Aug. 1-4 at 7:30 p.m. and Aug. 2, 3 and 5 at 2 p.m.

The theatre, started in 1978 by former Appalachian State University theatre teacher and Third Century Artists Janet Barton Speer, is located at the Hayes Auditorium at 191 Main Street, Banner Elk.

Tickets for all shows are available to purchase online at www.lmst.lmc.edu or at the theatre’s box office. Tickets are $30 or $35 for adults and $20 for students and children. For pricing, seating options, and box office hours, visit the website or call the box office at (828) 898-8709.