Highland Summer Theatre’s 50th “Golden Anniversary” is well underway. After the successful run of Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike closed Saturday, the next show, Seussical, is already set to open Wednesday.
Seussical is the second installment of the 50th Golden Anniversary season of Highland Summer Theatre, which over the years has featured several crowd-pleasing productions every summer. The diversity of the selections has included Sweeney Todd (1967), Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (the first production in Andreas Theatre in 2000), and just last year, Xanadu.
Based on the works of Dr. Seuss, Seussical is a show the whole family can enjoy. The show’s plot is based mainly on three popular Dr. Seuss books: Horton Hears a Who!, Horton Hatches the Egg, and Miss Gertrude McFuzz. A small boy and The Cat in the Hat begin the story and first find an elephant named Horton. Much like the book, in the musical Horton the Elephant finds a speck of dust and soon learns that the tiny speck contains the entirety of Whoville. Horton realizes that he must protect the speck and the Whos living there while being ridiculed by Sour Kangaroo and other jungle animals.
Another story that the musical follows is that of a bird named Gertrude. She has strong feelings for Horton but is worried that he doesn’t feel the same because her tail feathers are droopy and underwhelming. Mayzie LaBird, whose tail is beautiful, gives Gertrude the advice to see Dr. Drake. The Doctor gives Gertrude pills to make her tail grow. However, being impressed by how well they work she ends up taking too many. At the end of the first act a group of monkeys steal the clover that has the speck of dust and Horton is captured by hunters. Gertrude tries to save him but is unsuccessful because her tail is now too heavy.
Amanda Mai, a BFA musical theatre candidate at Minnesota State University, Mankato is enjoying her role as Mayzie.
“I love Seussical because on the surface it’s just a really fun upbeat show that’s great for kids,” she said. “But, if you dig a little deeper, there are universal themes that resonate with people of all ages.”
Seussical, a premiere musical at the university, performs at 7:30 p.m. June 8-11 in the Ted Paul Theatre in the Performing Arts Center at MSNU. The show, directed by Melissa Rosenberger, is described as “a fantastical, magical, musical extravaganza” created by Tony winners Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty who brought to life many beloved Dr. Seuss characters. Characters like Horton the Elephant, The Cat in the Hat and Gertrude McFuzz transport the audience from the Jungle of Nool to the Circus McGurkus to the invisible world of the Whos.
“It speaks to all ages,” said Paul Hustoles, Highland artistic director. “Dr. Seuss was way before his time. Even when you look at his stuff now, it looks futuristic.”
Thanks to $1,000 donations from sponsors Xcel Energy and Weilage Advisory Group in Mankato, MSU Theatre and the Children’s Museum of Southern Minnesota were able to partner to give away 300 tickets to a preview performance on June 7 to less fortunate children in the community who may not have had the opportunity to see the show otherwise. Coughlan Companies in North Mankato donated 25 Dr. Seuss books to give away to some of the children.
This summer, to celebrate such a momentous year, Highland has brought back alumni to take part in each of the four productions. The season opener was the comedy Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike and the final two after Seussical will be the comedy The Nerd and the musical Footloose. But as always, the department always looks toward the future and aims to offer something new, which is part of why Vanya and Seussical were selected; they are both premieres.
In honor of the 50th anniversary, a lobby display has been set up highlighting each of the five decades of Highland and includes original historic playbills and framed photos from favorite productions. The department is also holding a raffle where people can submit their favorite memories of past Highland shows for a chance to win tickets to The Full Monty in the fall.
Also, show-goers should be on the lookout for “Golden Tickets” to be randomly placed in ten playbills at each performance that are good for one free concession item.
Tickets for Seussical and Footloose are $22 regular or $19 discounted for seniors ages 65 and over and children ages 16 and under. Tickets for The Nerd are $16 regular and $14 discounted.
Call the Box Office from 4 to 6 p.m. weekdays at 507-389-6661, the MNSU Department of Theatre and Dance main office at 507 389-2118 for more information or visit MSUTheatre.com.