Some of the most beloved characters from children’s literature are coming to a stage near you.
From May 5 through May 8, the children’s theater cast at the Main Street Theatre & Dance Alliance (MST&DA) will perform Seussical Jr., a family-friendly musical about the Cat in the Hat, Horton the Elephant, the residents of Whoville, as well as other characters from iconic children’s book author Dr. Seuss.
Director Jackie Lucid-Cusick works with members of the Seussical Jr. cast. Photo by Jeff Turner.
No Matter How Small
Written by Tony award winners Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty, Seussical Jr. follows the plight of loyal and sensitive Horton the Elephant, who is sworn to protect not only an abandoned egg, but also a tiny speck of dust that just happens to hold an entire miniscule world of Whos – all despite ridicule and disbelief from his fellow jungle animals.
“It’s probably my most favorite musical,” says director Jackie Lucid-Cusick. “I love everything about it. I love the music, and it is so well written; it just grabs you. The kids love it; but the way it’s written, it just pulls the parents’ heartstrings.”
Seussical Jr. is a scaled-down version of the original broadway show Seussical the Musical. Cusick says she fell in love with the script after her daughter performed in the premiere of the “Jr. version” at the Professional Performing Arts School in Midtown years ago.
“The lessons in Seussical Jr. are so important to all of us,” she says. “It’s just a gentle reminder to look out for the little guy. You never know who might save the world.”
The production features a stunning, candy-colored backdrop painted in collaboration with the Roosevelt Island Visual Arts Association (RIVAA).
Unlike in past years, when off-Island set designers were hired to produce backdrops and props for performances, MST&DA Executive Director Kristi Towey decided to reach out to the Island community.
“I thought, we have all of these great, talented artists here on the Island in so many different areas,” recalls Towey. “I like the idea of tapping into Island resources to create something even better than it was before.”
The artists agreed. RIVAA member Laura Hussey created sketches for all three of the theater’s youth performances. Then, for Seussical Jr, Dan Nistor – with the help of other RIVAA artists – set to work bringing Hussey’s Seuss-inspired concept to life, adding his own flair in the process.
“He really took off with it,” says Towey. “We had a lot of fun.” The set uses fluorescent paints that glow under a blacklight to add an extra bit of magic.
Prop design was the result of another Island collaboration. In January, Island teen Nina Chang began a prop workshop for kids to build set pieces, including a bathtub and the tree Horton the Elephant sits in. The workshop included students, parents, RIVAA artist Connie Tanner, and even a volunteer from Cornell Tech.
“To be part of the show in a different way, and to see all the work that goes into it behind the scenes, is, I think, an important lesson for the kids. There are so many other parts to putting together a show,” Towey says.
She hopes MST&DA can continue to partner with RIVAA in the future. “I was really excited about this collaboration and I’m so glad that RIVAA was excited about it and open to it. The artists were incredible,” says Towey. “I am just so appreciative of it. I hope this is something that builds and continues.”
Performances take place at the Howe theater in the Roosevelt Island Cultural Center, located at 548 Main Street. Shows will run Friday, May 5, at 8:00 p.m.; Saturday, May 6, at 2:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m.; Sunday, May 7, at 2:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m.; and Monday, May 8, at 7:00 p.m. The show is recommended for ages 4 and older.
General admission is $20, senior/student tickets are $15. You can purchase tickets in advance at www.mstda.org/seussical-jr.html.