Monday, February 17, 2020
David DeNeui channels his inner cartoon as he rehearses the opening number of “Seussical,” a Dr. Seuss inspired musical playing at the Little Theatre of Owatonna.  DeNeui plays the Cat in the Hat in the production.

Dr. Seuss musical promises an evening of fun at Little Theatre

Oh the things you can think of, if only you might. Like a play full of Seuss, boy what a sight. There’s Horton and Whos and the Cat in the Hat, so come watch some Seuss on opening night.

“Seussical,” a musical production based on several of the works of famed children’s author and illustrator Dr. Seuss and adapted by Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty with help from Monty Python’s Eric Idle, will be playing in mid-July at the Little Theatre of Owatonna. 

Mary Butler-Fraser, the play’s technical director, explained it as “15 of Dr. Seuss’ books put to music, featuring 32 songs.” Like everyone involved with the production, she is a huge fan of the Seuss canon. “I think Dr. Seuss will be around forever,” she said. 

Dr. Seuss was born Theodor Seuss Geisel and is renown around the world for creating many of the most beloved children’s books. His work exhibited a sui generis approach to the medium and has become instantly recognizable by people from all generations and backgrounds. And no, he did not officially hold a doctorate degree.

The Little Theatre’s production will feature a cast of 36 actors and showcase music directed by Kristi Westergaard. Bri Bergstrom, the artistic director, recalled that she had talked with several of the performers about adapting the musical while working on past productions.

Bergstrom is a choir director in Belle Plaine, where she directed the musical with her Junior High students. “I fell in love with it,” Bergstrom said. Although she had never directed adults, she jumped at the chance to steer the helm of this production.

“This cast is incredible, and there’s kids under 10 and adults over 50,” she said. “It’s a great learning experience and a great community building experience.”

In describing the play, Bergstrom said, “This show takes everything that we love about Dr. Seuss’ books and brings it to life. It’s a very happy show with a popular message.”

Bergstrom grew up on the local stage, and she considers Butler-Fraser as one of her mentors. “It’s pretty cool to see this all come together,” Bergstrom said.

Some of the characters appearing in the play include Horton the elephant, the Grinch, a myriad of Whos, and the Cat in the Hat, who serves as a sort of narrator to the piece.

The story revolves around a boy named Jojo who encounters the Cat in the Hat. The Cat in the Hat then relays the story of Horton the elephant who has discovered a tiny mote which is home to a world of living beings, the Whos.

Jason Meyer, who plays Horton in the piece, describes it as a mesh of all your favorite Dr. Seuss stories put into one play. Of his young director, he had only positive things to say. “Bri’s very good at teaching and staying nice, and she knows how to get everyone on the same page.”

He wants the audience to “show up and be ready to have fun.”  With a production that features elaborate costumes and whimsical adventure, Meyer feels that it will “get the energy level up in the audience.”

His fellow cast member, David DeNeui, plays the Cat in the Hat. DeNeui said that he was inspired by some of the old Dr. Seuss cartoons to get that animated feeling just right for the role, “I’ve channeled my inner cartoon.”  Although, as he said, “it comes more natural for me to be goofy and animated anyway.”

DeNeui said that the production was “the biggest cast I’ve worked with in a community theatre,” and that director Bergstrom has done an excellent job in managing such a large-scale production. “She’s a lot of fun to work with. It’s crazy to see how she can balance everything with such a large cast,” he said.

He described the musical as “very fast paced,” and wants the audience to be “ready to have fun.” Of his role, Bergstrom said, “the Cat in the Hat has all sorts of surprises up his sleeve.”

“Seussical” will feature a large cast of actors, with starring roles going to Jason Meyer as Horton, DeNeui as the Cat in the Hat, Jackson Hemann as Jojo, and Sara Wall as Gertrude. Diane Skala will be handling the choreography with Kristi Westergaard serving as music director.

Tickets go on sale at the LTO Box Office on Monday, July 9. Evening performances of the show will run from July 12 through July 14 and July 19 through July 21 at 7:30 p.m. Matinees will be held on July 15 and July 22 at 2:00 p.m.

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