WILKES-BARRE — All the little Whos, perched upstage on a platform at Little Theatre of Wilkes-Barre, suddenly started to look dizzy. A bit disoriented.
Why? Just look downstage — closer to the audience — and you’ll see a mean bird named Vlad Vladikoff has stolen a piece of clover from Horton the Elephant. Moments later, the Cat in the Hat snatches the clover away from Vlad.
The Whos’ world is so tiny, it fits on that fuzzy flower. And, the clover changes hands so quickly, no wonder they’re discombobulated.
Now the Whos are shuddering with disgust, as if they’ve been slimed.
“The Cat in the Hat just sneezed on them,” Maureen Hozempa of Shavertown confirmed last week as she watched her fellow cast members rehearse a scene from “Seussical the Musical,” which opens on Friday.
“It’s really cool to be part of such a family-friendly show,” said Hozempa, who plays Gertrude, an “adorably sweet little bird who has a one-feather tail and wants to be noticed by her neighbor, Horton the Elephant. She’s jealous of Mayzie, another bird, who has a gorgeous tail.”
The musical blends elements of several Dr. Seuss stories, and offers a few lessons along the way.
In the subplot about Gertrude, for example, the little bird manages to grow more feathers, but that makes her tail so heavy “she can’t fly anymore and she can’t help Horton when he needs help,” Hozempa said. “Gertrude learns the lesson ‘you’re perfect the way you are.’ She didn’t need to change for anybody.”
Another moral of the musical is the value of make-believe.
“It starts with a boy, JoJo, who wonders what could wear a hat like this,” Matthew Buckman of Wyoming said, indicating the classic red-and-white striped stovepipe. “He meets the Cat in the Hat, and the cat nudges him to use his imagination more.”
“Adults tend to forget to use their imagination,” said Buckman, who plays the Cat. “I’m just as guilty as everybody else.”
“If they don’t, they need to start,” Hozempa said. “That’s what keeps you young and positive.”
The production “takes tremendous stories and blends them together with really beautiful music,” said John Beppler of Larksville, who portrays General Schmitz. “When I hear (Horton’s song) ‘Alone in the Universe,’ it gives me goosebumps and chills.”
The show is also giving some kid actors who were part of “Seussical Jr.” during Little Theatre’s recent youth summer workshop a chance to work with adults on the full-length version, said director Tom Franko, who predicts audiences of all ages will enjoy the zaniness of it all.
“Nothing is too over the top,” he’s told the cast, which includes plenty of Dr. Seuss fans.
“I grew up reading ‘Green Eggs and Ham’ and ‘One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish,” Hozempa said, naming two favorites.
“I still listened to my mom reading ‘Oh, the Places You’ll Go’ to my younger brother, even when I was 10 or 11,” said Eyanna Gruver of Forty Fort, who portrays the Sour Kangaroo.
“Seussical the Musical” runs for two weekends, with shows at 8 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays and 3 p.m. on Sundays.
Reach Mary Therese Biebel at 570-991-6109 or on Twitter @BiebelMT