A show! A show! A place you can go!
With actors and singers that move to and fro!
A bird, kangaroo, and one Who or two,
There are Things, Cats in Hats, and an Elephant, too.
Set pieces and costumes and 50 young ones.
And there's even a Grinch out to steal young ones' funs!
Well, I could do this for days on end, but I've only got about 1,000 words to work with here. So:
Upstart local troupe Tulsa Project Theatre (TPT) presents Seussical the Musical. There's a bunch of rhyming involved. Get it?
Director Meredith Purgason has her work cut out for her -- as if the 25 adult members of the cast weren't enough to wrangle, she's added about 50 children to the show, making it truly a family affair.
"There's a lot to play with in this show," she said. "We've got to be really creative with the way we approach a lot of things about this. I mean, 50 kids."
And those 50 seem to be a selling point. Producer and TPT executive director Todd Cunningham talked about how Seussical and TPT crossed paths, noting that among other reasons, the fact that it was something different went a long way toward the decision to produce this particular show.
"We wanted to do a family-oriented show, and one that had a holiday theme to it. If those shows are out there, they've either been done and done and done or they're currently being done.
"Also, we wanted to have kids in the show to make it that much more family-friendly," he continued. "After doing The Rocky Horror Show and Rent at the Hard Rock, this was a way to go in the completely opposite direction."
This show centers on the (mis)adventures of Horton, the elephant star of Seuss' Horton Hears a Who! Largely following the plot of that classic elephant tale, Seussical incorporates storylines and characters from at least a dozen other Seuss works, including Green Eggs and Ham, How the Grinch Stole Christmas!, The Sneetches and Other Stories, and Oh the Things You Can Think!, to name but a few.
Tulsa Project Theater's production schedule is also going in a different direction. While Purgason is accustomed to about a six-month run-up to a show, with Seussical she's had almost six weeks. Almost.
Born of necessity -- TPT just wrapped production on a Rocky-Horror-themed Halloween show and fundraiser, and Purgason was in Pennsylvania until very recently -- the abbreviated schedule has presented problems and opportunities.
"We've had a much tighter rehearsal schedule," she said. "A month ago, we hadn't had a single production meeting. So instead of having three production meetings over four weeks, we had two meetings in almost two weeks. I think it's been a good challenge for everybody."
The shorter schedule has also necessitated creativity from all members of the production team.
"We have an awesome design team," Purgason said.
Cunningham went a little further.
"This creative team is unlike anything I've ever seen before," he said. Consisting of Purgason, choreographer Heather Hall Newman (she received the MTV music award for that ridiculously fun video for that ridiculously catchy Hanson song), costumer April Madden, and set designer Chris Rose -- there is a Dream Team quality to this bunch. Add local theatrical heroes like Chad Oliverson and Claire Kifer, along with perennial New York import -- so perennial that TPT audiences have begun to assume that she's local -- Jessica Lauren-Howell; and a picture of a stupendously talented cast and crew begins to emerge.
"The things they've come up with to make this show happen have been amazing," Cunningham said, pronouncing the word "Uh. May. Zing" for effect, then excitedly went on. "This show has everything Seuss. It's fantastical, magical, it's a fun, quirky show."
Then there's Indigo Morris, three-year-old daughter of me, making her theatrical debut. If that's not reason to buy a ticket, I don't know what is.
The show itself, Purgason said, is about imagination, about community, and about the importance of both. Anyone who's given Seuss even a cursory glance as an adult has probably noticed the messages therein -- whether "Be yourself," "compromise," "try new things," "believe in yourself," or any of the other things most of us want instilled in our children.
"[Main character] Jojo -- the whole world is in her mind. At the beginning, she's alone. This is about going from being alone in the universe to having a community," Purgason said. "In today's times, I think that's an important message. All it takes is one 'Think.' I think that's something everyone needs to know, if they're seven-year-olds or 77-year-olds."
Message or not, Cunningham feels like the stakes are rather high here. This is the first full-length show TPT will perform in the Convention Center's Assembly Hall; the troupe having been fairly recently named the resident theater company of the space.
"We're getting used to our new home," Cunningham said. "We just feel a huge sense of obligation and responsibility, so we want to give Tulsa the best product possible."
New company, new space -- a combination not exactly devoid of speedbumps.
"Because this space hasn't been used in this way in such a long time, there's a learning curve for us, for the creative team, for the actors, for everyone," he said. "We want Tulsa to get to know what this is going to be like, but we need to learn that, too."
As for audience expectations, they should run high.
"I don't think anyone knows what this is going to be like. But for our audiences, we want them to have an incredible experience and want to come back," he said.
But who's not going to love this? The visual stun gun that is the costumes and the set are enough to wow even the most cynical theater-goer, and adding in the aforementioned cast of all-stars, and oh, the places you'll go! I mean, you know, the place you'll go -- like to the Convention Center.
Seussical the Musical runs Dec. 15-18 and 22-23. Shows start at 8pm; matinees run on Saturdays and Sundays at 2pm. Tickets range from $22 to $32 and are available at tulsaprojecttheatre.com or the Convention Center box office.
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