Channel your rollicking inner Dr. Seuss at the Cottage Theatre through Dec. 23

(Above: Tony Rust leads the Cottage Theatre cast as The Cat in the Hat in “Seussical,” the musical; photos by Emily Bly)

By Randi Bjornstad

No matter what their ages, most people probably are familiar in one way or another with the whimsical, funny, zany characters and pictures that make up the continuing Dr. Seuss phenomenon that began with his hugely successful career in children’s book writing.

Parents who read them now to their toddlers probably grew up hearing their own parents reading the same giggly stories to them, and those same people — now grandparents — most likely are carrying on the same tradition with the youngest set.

Left to right: Mr. Mayor (Joel Ibáñez), Jojo (Darcy Rust), Mrs. Mayor (Brittany Dreier) are characters in “Seussical”

One proof of the staying power of The Cat in the Hat, the Lorax, Horton the Elephant, Sam I Am, Marvin K. Mooney, Young Yolanda Yorgenson — even the infamous Grinch — is the fact that the Seuss characters have been transformed into a musical that opened on Broadway in New York City 17 years ago and has been performed widely since, throughout the United States as well as the United Kingdom and Canada.

The Cottage Theatre in Cottage Grove has chosen to end its 2017 season with the production, which is a mash-up of many Seuss characters set to music and dance, created by Stephen Flaherty, Lynn Ahrens and Eric Idle.

The show runs at the Cottage Theatre through Dec. 23. In it, The Cat in the Hat takes on the role of narrator, telling the story of Horton the Elephant, who hears a tiny noise emitting from a tiny clover leaf, which turns out to be the home of an invisible group of creatures known as the Who.

Mark VanBeever plays Horton the Elephant in “Seussical”

Horton accepts the responsibility for protecting the Whos from danger — especially a Who child named Jojo who seems continually be getting into trouble — but his life is complicated also by the need to guard an egg left with him by Mayzie La Bird. The story focuses on the importance of friendship, family, steadfastness and loyalty, portrayed through music and dance.

Keith Kessler directs the Cottage Theatre’s version of “Seussical,” with Gabe Dickinson as music director and Janet Rust, assisted by Madison Baker, in charge of choreography. The crew also includes Janet Whitlow (set design), Chris Carter (costumes), and Amanda Ferguson (lighting).

The “Seussical” cast includes Autumn Carter, left, as Mayzie La Bird and Madison Baker as Gertrude McFuzz

Tony Rust leads the cast as The Cat in the Hat, with Mark VanBeever as Horton the Elephant and Angela Pearson as Sour Kangaroo. Additional players are Stefhani Anderson, Anja Bartlog, Emily Bly, Timothy Bouwhuis, Hailey Bull,  Kyle Carillo-Enders, Jeff Carter, Kira Carver, Cari Cramer, Aiden Dickinson, Anwen Dickinson, Brittany Dreier, Jim Goes, Susan Goes, Zoe Goings, Amber Hagen, Joel Ibáñez, Audriahna Jones, Jennifer Mandeville-Schulz, Samuel Pearson, Eliana Piltz, Shanti Rios, Janet Rust, Elise Smith, Natalie Tichenor, Cameron Tunnell, Maia Wilhour, and Nicole Wilhour.

Dr. Seuss really was a German-American author named Theodor Seuss Geisel. His other talents included political cartooning, book publishing and poetry writing. He created more than 60 books for children, using the Dr. Seuss nom de plume.

Seuss, or Geisel, was born in Massachusetts and died in La Jolla, Calif., in 1991 at age 87. A half-billion of his children’s books have been sold.

“Seussical ” (the Musical)

When: 8 p.m. Thursday through Saturday on Dec. 7-9, 14-16, 21-23, with 2:30 p.m. Sunday matinees on Dec. 10 and 17 and a special matinee performance at 2:30 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 23.

Where: Cottage Theatre, 700 Village Drive, Cottage Grove

Tickets: $25 for adults, $15 for youths ages 6 to 18 years, available at the box office, 541-942-8001, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Wednesday through Friday and an hour before performances, or online at cottagetheatre.org/

Randi Bjornstad

Has more than 30 years’ journalism experience after a previous stint as a land-use planner. Got first rejection slip at age 11, but the editor wrote an encouraging note. Lives in Eugene, Ore., with husband-and-photographer Paul Carter, adorable dog Tallulah and quirky cats Pearl, Audrey, Garbo, Harry and Ozma.

randi has 174 posts and counting.See all posts by randi

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