(Story updated May 2 with new photos courtesy the Augusta Players)
When Justin Martin tells people he’s performing as The Cat in the Hat in the Augusta Players’ upcoming production of Seussical, he gets a similar response.
People say “’I have a five-year-old. Do you think he’ll like it?’ Yes, your five-year-old will love it, and so will you and your parents and so will your friends. This isn’t made for kids, but it’s very kid-friendly,” said Martin of Seussical which opens May 5 at the Imperial Theatre.
The musical features the works of Dr. Seuss, but it comes with grown-up messages contained within the lines.
Martin said he’s seen many Seussical productions online that gloss over he lines without delving into their richer meanings. This production changes that.
“That’s the perception we’re battling because when people think of Seussical, they think of the high school production they saw, and this is not that on so many different levels,” said Scott Seidl, the Augusta Players’ executive and artistic director, who has had this musical on his radar for nearly four years.
With music and lyrics by Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty with a dash of Eric Idle from Monty Python fame, Seussical is based on several Dr. Seuss stories including Horton Hears a Who!, Gertrude McFuzz, and Horton Hatches the Egg while adding characters from other stories.
Seidl said the score is well-written, and the lines are witty, zany, wacky and fun but also quite smart.
The show features an ensemble of 14 in addition to its main characters as well as an army of 27 puppets, and there are messages contained within the storylines that go deeper than what’s on the surface, according to Martin.
“I think this production is way different from anything I’ve seen online. People (just) read the lines,” he said. “(But) There’s so much more in these stories. I hope the audience sees and understands.”
Martin said he relates to his character of The Cat In the Hat who in the book took two children on quite an adventure during a rainy, dreary day stuck in the house. His mischief distresses the fish.
“I love being Cat in the Hat,” he said. “I feel like he’s my spirit animal. He encourages the positive.”
Martin sees him as not necessarily a physical character, but that voice in the brain of the character JoJo that tells is the encourager.
“When you think you can’t do something. In your brain, you hear ‘you are good enough; you can do that.,” he said – that is what the cat is all about.
Seidl said he and his team have paid close attention to the lighting and sets to make the experience like none Seussical audiences have seen before.
“Just to sit and look at it is stunning,” he said.
The lighting director created a small-scale model of the stage and started preparing for the light design early in the rehearsal process. The costumes created by Sue Brannigan are also incredible, he said.
“It’s a Seussical like you’ve never seen before,” he said.
Charmain Z. Brackett is the publisher of Augusta Good News. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Subscribe to the newsletter here.
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