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Winding Oak's Bookology Magazine

Seussical the Musical!

Dar­ling Daugh­ter has dis­cov­ered the stage. She is in her first musi­cal this spring and is hav­ing a ball. Nine­ty-four mid­dle school­ers (with help from some won­der­ful teach­ers and staff, of course) are valiant­ly putting on Seussi­cal. I say valiant­ly because it is a big project. It’s real­ly a mini-opera—very few lines are not sung.

imagesIf you are not in the know (I wasn’t), Seussi­cal is a musi­cal by Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Fla­her­ty. It is based entire­ly on an aston­ish­ing num­ber of Dr. Seuss books. But you can fol­low the sto­ry if you’re famil­iar with Hor­ton Hears a Who and Hor­ton Hatch­es the Egg and have a work­ing knowl­edge of The Cat in the Hat and Green Eggs and Ham.

We have a deep and abid­ing love for musi­cals at our house, but this one was new to us. We knew it exist­ed. We even knew the premise. But until our ris­ing star brought home the CD so she could prac­tice (and we could lis­ten 247) we did not know the delight of this musi­cal. Sim­ply put, Seussi­cal is a hoot. A romp. A treat. And per­fect for mid­dle school. Now that I’ve lis­tened to it a few (hun­dred, thou­sand) times, I think I’ve fig­ured out why. To be sure, the music is very fun, the stag­ing and chore­og­ra­phy oppor­tu­ni­ties are end­less, and the on-stage crazi­ness is per­fect for mid­dle school; but the real rea­son it’s so ter­rif­ic and so appro­pri­ate­ly staged in a mid­dle school is the Dr. Seuss sto­ries from which it draws. We read these sto­ries to our mid­dle school­ers when they were three and four, but they have cer­tain­ly not out­grown the themes just because they’re now 11 to 13-year-olds.

To be hon­est, I’m not real­ly a Dr. Seuss fan. Shock­ing, I know. Prac­ti­cal­ly un-Amer­i­can. But read­ing Dr. Seuss sto­ries can make my eyes cross. I want these books to be about 50 pages short­er than they are, and if they had few­er strings of tongue-tan­gling, made-up, rhyming words I’d be much more a fan, I think. HOWEVER, the Hor­ton the Ele­phant sto­ries are the excep­tion to these crab­by crit­i­cisms. Hor­ton I love uncon­di­tion­al­ly. This kind, devot­ed, lum­ber­ing ele­phant who believes so deeply that “a person’s a per­son, no mat­ter how small” makes my heart go pit­ter-pat.

I read Hor­ton to both kids many times when they were lit­tle. I’ve read it to count­less sto­ry­time groups of all ages since. Hor­ton, well read, can hold the atten­tion of babies, tod­dlers, pre-read­ers, tween­ers and teen­ers, mid­dle-aged adults and old folk. Hor­ton speaks to our bet­ter selves. He is an ele­phant with an unshake­able sense of right and wrong. His noble pro­tec­tion of the vul­ner­a­ble, his patience with sour kan­ga­roos, his sense of duty even at his own per­son­al expense, and the grace—sheer, gor­geous grace—he offers every­one at the end…. Sigh. I (heart) Hor­ton! I have to steel myself so I don’t get all verklempt when I read him pub­licly.

This is what it boils down to, I think: What is mid­dle school if not a large, some­times fright­en­ing, Jun­gle of Nool? And who are our mid­dle school­ers if not wild Jun­gle Crea­tures one day and Very Small Whos the next? And what a theme for those crazy mid­dle years: Oh the Thinks You Can Think!

I’m grate­ful to Dr. Seuss and also Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Fla­her­ty for their imag­i­na­tion. I’m grate­ful to the kids and adults in and around our mid­dle school’s pro­duc­tion who are bring­ing our com­mu­ni­ty this musi­cal. I know I’ll be verklempt when I see it all pulled togeth­er on stage next week. All those wiley mid­dle schoolers—I mean Dr. Seuss characters—dancing and singing togeth­er. Does life get any bet­ter than this? I think not. Not for me, any­way.

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