By SUE SUCHYTA
You may not like green eggs and ham, or random poets on the lam. But if you like to laugh and smile, give “Seussical the Musical” a trial.
Lynn Aherns and Stephens Flaherty’s “Seussical the Musical,” based on the beloved books by Theodor Seuss Geisel, begins a four-weekend run April 29 at the Players Guild of Dearborn, with energy and fun that will appeal to everyone’s inner child.
Diane Kaplan and Jeff Bartos produce the show, with Valerie Haas of Inkster directing, Paul Abbott of Livonia directing the music, and Janeen Bodary of Dearborn Heights choreographing.
Run times are 8 p.m. April 29 and 30, and May 6, 7, 13, 14, 20 and 21, and 2:30 p.m. May 1, 8, 15 and 22 at the theater, 21730 Madison in Dearborn.
Tickets are $20, with a $2 student discount. For tickets or more information, call 313-561-TKTS or go to playersguildofdearborn.org.
Based on stories by Dr. Seuss, and narrated by the Cat in the Hat, audiences encounter Horton the Elephant, the Whos, Mayzie LaBird, Gertrude McFuzz and many colorful characters who ultimately reveal the value of friendship, loyalty and community through fast-paced and upbeat adventures.
Leading the cast is John Denyer of Dearborn as the Cat in the Hat, with Ron Williams Jr. of Livonia as Horton the Elephant and Jamie Paschke of Dearborn Heights as JoJo.
Other Dearborn residents playing leads include Meg Kisch as Gertrude McFuzz, Samantha York as Mayzie LaBird and Rebecca Hermen as the Sour Kangeroo.
Christina Bertucci of Dearborn plays the Young Kangeroo (“Roo”), with Amanda Chatila of Dearborn Heights, and Allen Park residents Kayla Chavez and Danielle Riley as the Bird Girls.
Ben Apostle of Dearborn, Mark Wagner of Plymouth and Josh Lisiecki of Wixom play the Wickersham Brothers.
Phil Booth of Dearborn plays Yertle the Turtle, with Jake Dombrowski of Westland as Vlad Vladikoff, Tim Carney of Livonia as the Whoville Mayor, and Diane Cliff of Dearborn as the Mayor’s wife.
Vincent Hanchon of Detroit plays General Genghis Khan Schmitz, with Tom Sparrow of Allen Park as the Grinch.
The ensemble, who play Whos, jungle animals, Hunches, circus performers and fish include Dearborn residents Garrett Hermen, Matthias Hermen, Maggie Kanclerz, Lexie Kaplan, Olivia Kirk, Adriana Viscomi and Nathan Wall; Rebekah Preiss of Dearborn Heights; Scott Rider of Lincoln Park; Deb Kales of Detroit; and Blake Williams and Claire Williams of Livonia.
Haas said “Seussical” is about the power of our imagination.
“If we can think it, we can do it, or become it,” Haas said. “The story springs from the imagination of a child and goes wherever he thinks.
“One of my favorite lyrics is, ‘Oh, the thinks you can think, if you’re willing to try,’ and one of the iconic ideas from the show is, ‘A person’s a person, no matter how small.’”
Lisiecki said the show has child-like charm with just a little adult humor in it.
“The colors and theme lean toward the children, but the content is for everybody,” Lisiecki said. “I think there is a lesson to be learned in everything that’s done here.”
Lisiecki said “Seussical,” unlike Disney stories, focuses on personality, not looks.
“It dives into keeping your beliefs and having your personality can make a difference, and make you a hero in its own way.”
York said the “Seussical” music and lyrics are not like the Disney princess shows either.
“What’s wonderful about this play is the way that it is structured and the way that it flows,” York said. “It isn’t a bunch of dialogue, dialogue, dialogue, ‘woe is me,’ damsel in distress. It flows from one song right to the next and it just drives the story.”
She said “Seussical” never falls in the Disney franchise trap because it touches on relevent, meaningful issues.
“It’s about diversity and being able to speak your mind and be yourself, and for that to be OK with everybody else,” York said. “Nobody can tell you who you are.
“Sometimes Disney sugarcoats that. What’s wonderful about this play is it (has) enough Seuss to make it fun, but there are some serious issues that we talk about in a straightforward way.”
York said the lyrics and music will help speak for the characters, but the costumes and the set will take on a life of their own while they enhance the characterization.
“Not only are our mouths and the way our bodies move going to tell the story, but the way we look and the beautiful world that (set designer) Kirk (Haas) and Valerie are creating for us are just going to bring the story to life even more.”
Paschke said her character, JoJo, tells the audience it is OK to be yourself.
“At first he is not very accepting toward himself, kind of insecure,” Paschke said. “The only way he can feel secure is in his imagination. But the people in the community, they’re like, ‘No, you can’t do that, you can’t think, you can’t think this because we don’t think it.’ But then at the end he learns to embrace his imagination, embrace himself and accept himself.”
Paschke said this is one of the most challenging musicals she has been in.
“There is a lot of dancing,” Paschke said. “It’s not like one of those where you stand and sing. You’re being very exuberant. The story is told through song.”
Paschke said “Seussical” is not just for children, and adults will relate to it and enjoy watching the story unfold.
“They will see that some things aren’t what they seem, and they’ll gain a little more self-confidence and self-acceptance, I think,” she said.
Denyer said the role of the Cat in the Hat is neat because it is all based on another character’s imagination.
“One of the big things about this show is that we all spring from a kid’s head,” Denyer said. “It’s encouraging to speak to kids about being confident with the things they think. Just like the song ‘The Thinks You Can Think,’ the Cat in the Hat encourages that.
“I am also an educator, a substitute teacher, and so this is something I work at every day to inspire imagination. Yes, I work with math, too, so logic is in there, too, but encouraging kids to draw is very fun. So I get to see this action every day, and to be able to incorporate that in this role is just really satisfying.”
Denyer said the show has layers, much like a book would come to life.
“Behind all the spectacle and pretty glitter, there is a common core value that they live by,” Denyer said, “Which is imagination is more important than knowledge.”