Photo: Muse Machine presents “Seussical!” Jan. 16-19; photo: Thom Meyer
The definition of the word “dandy” is “an excellent thing of its kind.” There’s no better word to describe the Muse Machine’s production of “Seussical!” Of course, it’s a musical.
Dr. Seuss I’m not, but if you love all those great characters the good doctor created like Cat in the Hat, Horton the Elephant and – yes – even the Grinch, then this is right up your alley.
Muse Machine was founded in 1982 and since then has introduced many thousands of young people, grades K-12, to performances and the arts in all forms. During that time, Muse has also inspired countless “a-ha moments” by bringing creative techniques into schools to convey the curriculum. Also, every year they present two top-notch productions using talented youngsters from schools all over the valley.
Douglas Merk is back to produce and said it is a bit daunting putting this all together.
“A full week of auditions, every night, up to six hours a night, allows us to see kids from across the greater Miami Valley,” Merk said. “Some are very experienced, some have almost no experience but are wonderful nonetheless, every shape and size imaginable. … It’s a long, difficult process and every young person who goes through it is really brave to put himself or herself out there.”
However, it’s always a blast and keeps Merk, director Joe Deer, choreographer Lula Elzy and music director Timothy Olt young.
“There are 140 young people in the show, in the cast, orchestra and production assistants,” Merk explained. “They range from age six to 18 and come from up to an hour away everyday to rehearse. They are diverse in every conceivable way, and when they are in the studio together, they are a family. Beyond the hard work of putting the show together (we started in September and rehearse seven days a week), they help each other – from homework to the difficulties of life, and even through family deaths.
“These same kids are involved in sports and performing groups and honor societies and they are managing priorities at a very adult level. There are challenges for the few of us on the creative team, but it is such a privilege to work alongside them as mentors, friends and family. They aren’t merely talented, they are genuinely kind and wise human beings and walking into that studio each day is a great moment.”
It’s also a blast for the creative team to put its own creative touch on the show.
“One great experience revolves around a production number called ‘The Circus McGurkus,’” Douglas said. “Originally, it’s a brief, throw-away number, just intended just to move the story to the next point. We have developed it into something much larger. With the help of former ‘Sesame Street’ cast member and Broadway performer Fred Garbo, our circus now contains acrobatics, jugglers, unicycles, enormous inflatable objects and more. It’s a great example of a moment that has grown into something really memorable.”
And the choice for “Seussical” was an easy choice.
“This is the 30th musical Muse has produced,” Merk said. “We wanted something especially suitable to mark that milestone, and Seuss is wise and funny and charming and spans generations in a way that felt like a perfect reflection of the young people of Muse Machine. ‘Seussical’ intertwines stories and characters from many of Dr. Seuss’s books into one, single tale. It’s great, obviously, to see characters like the Cat in the Hat, the Grinch and Horton the Elephant brought to life. What’s unexpected, is that it all happens in a way that works for an adult audience as well. The show is really funny and moving, there are huge dance numbers and the music is all over the place, from Motown to rock to gospel to musical theatre.”
You really can’t go wrong with Dr. Seuss.
“While audiences will love reaching back to memories of these characters, they will enjoy a really fast-paced, funny show,” Douglas said. “The music literally almost never stops and it probably works on a more grown-up level of entertainment than they are expecting, though kids will love it, too.”
Now, before we go, I asked Doug where some Muse alum have ended up. The list is long and continues to grow: Jill Paice is starring in “Matilda” on Broadway; Tory Ross is featured in “Kinky Boots” on Broadway.
“Micah Stock just opened in Terrance McNally’s new play ‘And Away We Go’ on Broadway.” Merk said proudly. “Michael Ingersoll’s band Under The Streetlamp is touring the country and their next concert will be on PBS this spring. Patrick Stafford has a recurring role on ‘Glee.’ Ben Magnuson is touring in ‘Once.’ Korey Harlow is touring in ‘A Chorus Line.’ Andrew Koslow is touring in ‘Mama Mia.’ Adam Koch is designing sets all over the world and Steven Reineke is conductor of the New York Pops.”
Wow! We knew them when, and if you’d like to see the stars of tomorrow, “Seussical!” is playing this week Jan. 16-19 on the Victoria Theatre stage.
For tickets and show times, please call 937.228.3630 or visit ticketcenterstage.com.
Plus, you can see the show in a box, with a fox or with a … sorry, got carried away.