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Theatre / Seussical

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"Oh, the thinks you can think, when you think about Seuss!"

"Oh, the thinks you can think,
think and wonder and dream
far and wide as you dare"

Seussical is a 2000 Broadway musical based on the works of Dr. Seuss with music, lyrics, and book by Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty (of Schoolhouse Rock! and Ragtime fame). It draws a lot of its plot from Horton Hears a Who! and Horton Hatches the Egg but also includes characters and elements of The Cat in the Hat, How the Grinch Stole Christmas!, Green Eggs and Ham, and many other lesser-known works. Though its Broadway run was a notorious flop, it was drastically cleaned up and has become an extremely popular show with amateur/community theaters, and for local school productions.

This musical provides examples of the following tropes:

  • Adaptational Attractiveness: Mayzie was a relatively plain-looking bird in Horton Hatches the Egg. Here, she's a beautiful, flirtatious woman in a stunning red dress.
  • Adaptational Heroism: Mayzie again. In the original book, she's an incredibly lazy and irresponsible parent and much more mean-spirited towards Horton when she comes back for her egg. In the musical, she's more of The Ditz who, while still flawed, showcases she might have some self-awareness about what a lousy parent she'd make and correctly assumes that her egg is better off in Horton's care than hers.
  • Adaptational Nice Guy: In Yertle the Turtle and Other Stories, Gertrude McFuzz wants a bigger, better tail to show off, and she gloats that another young bird she envies, Lolla-Lee-Lou, will drop dead when she sees her improved tail. The musical changes Gertrude's motive to wanting to impress Horton, because she's fallen in love with his "kind and powerful heart". She isn't particularly mean to anyone and in fact, helps Horton by finding the clover.
  • Adapted Out: The Cat in the Hat's sidekicks, Thing One and Thing Two, do not appear in the original show, instead replaced by an ensemble of Cats in Hats (based on the little cats from The Cat in the Hat Comes Back). Many regional and school productions add the Things back in as non-speaking sidekicks/stagehands.
  • An Aesop: There's the classic "a person's a person no matter how small" as well as a celebration of creative thinking and "thinkers" that runs as the undercurrent of the whole show. The Cat even begins the final number by asking the audience what they think happened after the story.
  • Affably Evil: General Genghis Kahn Schmitz (who scares children out of their wits).
  • All Musicals Are Adaptations: In this case, it's an adaptation of Seuss' books.
  • Arc Welding: Arguably. It puts a lot of Dr. Seuss's many, many stories into a single continuous setting, and a good number of them figure into the main plot. See the Continuity Porn entry below.
  • Arc Words: "Alone in the Universe."
  • The Artifact: The Lorax reference in "Here On Who". The first draft of the script included an entire number that retold the story of the Lorax to Jojo, giving him the boost he needs to help save Whoville. It was eventually cut for time, mitigating the story's presence to the aforementioned reference.
  • Ascended Extra: Jojo, the smallest of the Whos, is promoted to the deuteragonist alongside Horton.
  • Beautiful All Along: Gertrude, although she comes to realize this herself, and for practical reasons as well.
  • Big Bad Ensemble: The Sour Kangaroo for the Jungle of Nool and General Genghis Khan Schmitz for Whoville, though Schmitz is the Big Bad from Jojo's perspective only. Regardless, both Schmitz and the Kangaroo pull Heel-Face Turns by the end of the story.
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: The Cat regularly does this silently, but his last line before the final song is addressed right at the audience "And then guess what happened? Well? What do you think?"
  • Cassandra Truth: True to the original book, nobody in the Jungle of Nool believes Horton when he goes around claiming that a single speck of dust is actually a tiny, inhabited planet.
  • Cliffhanger: The first act ends with the Cat literally dangling up in the air.
  • Composite Character:
  • Continuity Cameo:
    • A reformed Grinch now lives in Whoville, and each Christmas he plays himself in the now-famous story of his redemption.
    • Yertle the Turtle shows up as the judge at Horton's trial.
  • Continuity Porn: Of Dr. Seuss's stories. The plot of the musical tries to mix as many of them into one coherent story, takes a few liberties in order to do so, and has a somewhat complex structure as a result. However, a lot of them figure in as Shout-Outs and are more or less insulated from the main plot, therefore remaining unchanged other than their setting. The Other Wiki has an impressive list of all the stories that cameo in the book.
  • Cross-Cast Role: The Cat in the Hat has been played by both males and females. In the original Broadway production, the character was played by David Shiner, Rosie O'Donnell, and Cathy Rigby at different times.
  • Crowd Song: "Oh, the Thinks You Can Think", among others.
  • Dark Reprise:
    • While every rendition of "How Lucky You Are" is ironic in some way, Horton's reprise of it while on the road between circus locations is particularly dire.
    • Jojo sings a bit of "Alone in the Universe" when he is lost on the battlefield and hasn't heard from Horton in months.
    • And later, "Solla Sollew," sung by the Mayor and his wife after the General tells them that Jojo is presumed dead.
  • Demoted to Extra: The Grinch, one of the more popular Dr. Seuss characters, is a relatively minor character here.
  • Determinator: Gertrude, as revealed in "All for You". Just to give you an idea, while looking for Horton, she: was shipwrecked; slogged through some swamp; was attacked by bees and dogs; trudged through snow in subzero conditions; tripped and fell off of a hill and landed on a jagged shoal (spraining her toe in the process) and was ran over. At some point during all this, she took seven weeks (almost two whole months) and found the clover with the speck of dust that holds the Whos' world. Keep in mind that this was in a field of clovers that were all identical. And she herself cannot hear the Whos and so had to just look for a speck, unlike Horton, who could listen for them.
  • Disney Acid Sequence: "It's Possible," "Havin' a Hunch"
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: The popular Mayzie has a very large tail. Gertrude goes to medical means to get a larger tail that ends up being really impractical and getting in her way. Not to mention she has to take pills and her tail gets LONGER. Something Else Also Rises indeed. (Depending on the performance, it also sounds like she's getting breast implants.)
  • Drill Sergeant Nasty: While his rank is General, Genghis Kahn Schmitz acts more like this archetype in his number.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: Horton goes through exile, mockery, a grueling search, sitting on an egg through a freezing winter, getting betrayed, getting sold to the circus, and watching his protected world risk being boiled alive, but ultimately the egg and Whoville are saved.
  • The Eleven O'Clock Number: "All For You".
  • Exactly What It Says on the Tin: It's the works of Dr. Seuss as a musical.
  • Expy: The Cat in the Hat is basically a (mostly) benevolent version of the Leading Player from Pippin.
  • Gender Flip: Jojo can sometimes be portrayed as a young girl, depending on the production.
  • General Ripper: General Genghis Kahn Schmitz — although he gets a bit better later on.
  • Girl Next Door: Gertrude literally lives next door to Horton. She's a sweet, shy bird with an inferiority complex, and pretties herself up by eating the pill berries because she desperately wants Horton to notice her.
  • Greek Chorus: The Cat in the Hat and the Bird Girls.
  • "The Hero Sucks" Song: "Biggest Blame Fool (In The Jungle Of Nool)" mocks Horton for "talking to a speck of dust."
  • "I Am" Song: "The One-Feathered Tail of Miss Gertrude McFuzz" tells us that Gertrude's in love with Horton and wants him to notice her, but thinks she's too plain for that to happen.
  • Incoming Ham:
    • "HUMPH! humphed a voice! 'Twas the Sour Kangaree-oo!"
    • General Schmitz as well, who marches in on military fanfare and and announces himself at high volume "I'M GENERAL GENGHIS KAHN SCHMITZ!"
    • To a slightly lesser extent, "'HA!' laughed a voice. 'HA!' laughed some others. 'HA! HA! HA!' laughed the Wickersham Brothers!"
  • Incredibly Long Note: Schmitz, at the end of his song.
  • Interspecies Romance: Horton and Gertrude, an elephant and bird.
  • Irrelevant Act Opener:
    • There's a short song at the top of Act II that just recaps the events of the first act. However, it could be subverted if you wait too long, because it cuts into "Egg, Nest, and Tree," which moves the plot forward at a mile a minute.
    • The Entr'acte, as conducted by the Cat in the Hat, could be considered this as well.
  • Kangaroo Court: Literally. The Sour Kangaroo all-but runs the trial, which is not very fair to Horton. The prosecution gets a fair shot, but Gertrude, Horton's "attorney", can't sneak a word in edgewise without Yertle the judge overruling her.
  • Lemony Narrator: The Cat in the Hat, who appears in various minor roles as well as occasionally explaining things for the audience.
  • Massive Multiplayer Crossover: Of Dr. Seuss' books, with the main plot being an adaption of Horton's two books. And whatever improv the Cat decides to throw in.
  • Mix-and-Match Critters: An elephant bird.
  • Mr. Imagination: Jojo is established in the opening has having "quite a mind for [his] age," and it's implied he's thought the entire musical into existence. It also gets him in trouble, as his thinking leads to him flooding the bathroom and being sent off to war.
  • Mood Whiplash:
    • Twice, once by the Cat and once by Horton, as Who is being destroyed and as Horton is being attacked by Hunters, everything stops for a blase, cheery rendition of "How Lucky You Are".
    • After Horton's sentence is pronounced solemnly by Judge Yertle, everyone perks up into a rousing gospel chorus when discussing the horrible fate in store for "the dust speck".
  • Moral Guardians: While the Sour Kangaroo isn't as much this as in the Horton Hears a Who! film adaptation, she still bases her accusations of Horton on the fact that "a mother like me should know".
  • Names to Run Away from Really Fast: General Genghis Kahn Schmitz and "The Sour Kangaroo".
  • Oblivious to Love: Horton, big time. Gertrude sings a whole love song behind him and he doesn't notice.
  • Pet the Dog: General Schmitz after Jojo's presumed death. When he thinks Jojo is dead he insists the boy is hero, instead of a deserter, and returns his sword and hat to his parents respectfully and with regret that he did not listen to the boy.
  • Pragmatic Adaptation:
    • Horton the Elephant, a large quadrepedal animal, is portrayed by an actor in simple grey clothing in the Broadway production. His more elephant-like features are portrayed in more subtle ways, like the use of his arm to represent a trunk or large leaves that are held up to resemble elephant ears. Many subsequent productions would follow suit, sometimes incorporating more elephant-esque qualities into the costuming.
    • General Genghis Kahn Schmitz is a knight in his respective book, complete with a full suit of armor and a steed. The musical reimagines the character as a modern day general.
  • Promoted to Love Interest: Gertrude McFuzz to Horton, who wasn't even in the same book as him.
  • Sassy Black Woman: The Sour Kangaroo is modeled after Aretha Franklin, complete with musical references to "Respect" and "Think" in the score, so most of her portrayers either fit this model or enter Pretty Fly For A White Girl territory.
  • Shout-Out:
    • One line in "Biggest Blame Fool" is "Acting as if he's holding a jewel", referring to how dumb the other animals think Horton the elephant is by believing that a small speck of dust can talk, even though he's the only one who hears it. There was a movie called Magic Adventures of Mumfie which had an elephant who had to protect a magical jewel belonging to a queen.
    • The line "Now I'm caught between a dust speck and an incubating egg" has the same melody as a portion of "Lovely Ladies" from Les Misérables.
    • When the chorus sings "Sold" in "Egg, Nest, and Tree," the chords mirror, with some variation, the choral line singing "Well done, Judas/Good old Judas" in Jesus Christ Superstar.
  • Single Woman Seeks Good Man: Gertrude's attraction to Horton is because he's friendly, loyal, and kind.
  • "Somewhere" Song: "Solla Sollew," about the "faraway land" Horton and Jojo want to go to.
  • Sound Off: Parodied with Schmitz's "Green Eggs and Ham" chant at the end of "The Military" (reprised at the Curtain Call).
  • Stalker with a Crush: Gertrude is a relatively benign example. She follows Horton for much of the show because she's in love with him and he's oblivious to it. However, she's more helpful than destructive, and he probably would have died without her intervention.
  • "They've Come So Far" Song: "All for You" is one, relating the sheer hell Gertrude has gone through to get to Horton. However, everything mentioned in the song happened off-stage.
  • Villain Song:
    • "The Military Academy" for Schmitz.
    • And, if you include Mayzie as a villain, "Amayzing Mayzie".
    • "Monkey Around" for the Wickersham Bros.
    • "Biggest Blame Fool" for the Sour Kangaroo.
  • You Are Not Alone:
    • Both Horton and Jojo are feeling ostracized and lonely near the beginning of the show, then they manage to talk to each other and finally find the friend they've been looking for:
      Horton: You called my name and you set me free. One small voice in the universe...
      Jojo: One true friend in the universe...
      Both: Who believes in me.
    • In the finale, there's a quick reprise of this with Horton and Gertrude:
      Horton: Just call my name...
      Both: And I'll see you through...
      Horton: One small voice in the universe...
      Gertrude: One true friend in the universe...
      Both: Who believes in you.

Alternative Title(s): Seussical The Musical