Oh, the thinks you can think: Hale Centre Theatre thinks up many surprises for ‘Seussical’
Jan 15, 2020 12:28PM
By Christy Jepson
The Cat in the Hat (played by Ryan Simmons) creates chaos and mayhem all throughout the production. (Photo Credit: Hale Centre Theatre)
By Christy Jepson | [email protected]
Everything about Hale Centre Theatre’s production of “Seussical” is whimsical, bright and energetic. Right from the first song, audience members get carried away into the world of Dr. Seuss. The scenery, the music, the tricks, the talent and the trapeze artists make this show a one-of-a kind theatrical production.
Working on the world-class Young Living Centre Stage allowed Hale Centre Theatre’s production team to dream big with this musical.
“This is ‘Seussical’ like you’ve never seen it before,” said Sally Dietlein, Hale Centre Theatre’s executive producer and co-founder.
The custom-built center stage boasts 130 motors, 11 lifts to move the 24-foot circular stage, twin trolley cranes that weigh 20 tons with eight hoists each for carrying and lowering large set pieces, and 17 LED screens that circle the theater. With this state-of-the-art technology, anything was possible while creating this fantastically fun world of Dr. Seuss.
“We have the opportunity that most theaters don't have — to use our incredible stage technology to channel the crazier parts of the Seuss world. Things fly and spin and are transported onto the screens. It is nonstop surprises!” said Dave Tinney, director.
“Seussical” Hale Centre Theatre style is entertaining for everyone. The team stayed true to the characters of Dr. Seuss but added so much more to enhance the theater experience: a ball pit, a full-size playground, hopper balls, neon glow-in-the-dark costumes, gigantic balloon creatures, trapeze aerialists, a mini wagon train, circus acts, and let’s not forget to mention the use of puppets throughout the production.
According to Tinney, creating this magical, whimsical world and being consistent with the story and keeping the storyline moving was a challenge. “For sure the most challenging thing about this show has been balancing the spectacle with the storytelling. The show requires the spectacle. However, we always want to make sure that it is in service of the story and the situations that the characters are in. Story is always first.”
“Seussical” is a mix of more than 20 classic children’s books written by Theodor Seuss Geisel. In this musical, audience members are reintroduced to the Cat in the Hat, Horton the Elephant, the Lorax, the Grinch and many more. Words from books are transformed into songs, such as “Green Eggs and Ham,” “Horton Hears a Who” and “Oh, the Thinks You Can Think.”
“The stories and themes in Dr. Seuss’ books are so universal that everyone, no matter the age, will learn and feel something, all while being fantastically entertained,” Dietlein said.
“Seussical” carries those same themes and lessons throughout the production. “I think kids will be absolutely delighted by the magic of the show and the visual spectacle. Beyond that, I think parents will find that there are some pretty profound truisms that come through. Dr. Seuss was a brilliant satirist and spinner of parable. These stories are not just fantasy for fantasy's sake. They are beautiful and timeless lessons,” Tinney said.
The play’s production team has many talented local artists. Besides being the director, Tinney is also the choreographer. The musical director is Kelly DeHann with set design by Kacey Udy, lighting design by Michael Gray and costume design by MaryAnn Hill. The aerialists were trained by Ramsi Stoker.
The cast is led by Ryan Simmons as the Cat in the Hat. Travis Anderson and Dustin Bolt are double cast as Horton the Elephant. Kelly Coombs and Ali Bennett are double cast as Gertrude McFuzz. Bailee Morris plays Mayzie La Bird, and Parker Burnham and Grant Shumway play JoJo.
“Seussical” runs until Jan. 18. Performance times are 7:30 p.m., Monday through Saturday with many weekday matinees at 4 p.m. and Saturday matinees at 12:30 p.m. and 4 p.m. No children under the age of 5 are permitted in the theater. Ticket prices are $44–$52 for adults and $22–$26 for youth ages 5 through 17.
For ticket information, call 801-984-9000, go to hct.org, or visit the box office at 9900 South Monroe Street in Sandy City.