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Seussical the Musical

Created by: Duncan Doherty

What is a dramaturgy?

Dramaturgy is the study of dramatic composition and the representation of the main elements of drama on the stage.

Dr. Seuss

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Dr. Seuss


The Man Behind the Stories: Theodor Seuss Geisel aka Dr. Seuss

Selected works:

  • And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street (1937)

  • Horton Hatches the Egg (1940)

  • Horton Hears a Who (1954)

  • The Cat in the Hat (1957)

  • How the Grinch Stole Christmas (1957)

  • The Cat in the Hat Comes Back (1958)

  • One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish (1960)

  • Green Eggs and Ham (1960)

  • The Sneetches and Other Stories (1961)

  • Hop on Pop (1963)

  • Fox in Socks (1965)

  • The Lorax (1971)

  • The Butter Battle Book (1981)

  • I Am Not Going to Get Up Today! (1987)

  • Oh, the Places You'll Go! (1990)

Theodor Geisel was born on March 2, 1904, to Henrietta and Theodor Robert Geisel.  He attended Dartmouth College (graduating in 1925), and while there wrote for the Dartmouth Jack ‘O Lantern (a humor magazine), eventually becoming its’ editor in chief.  It was working for the magazine that he first adopted using his famous pen name, Dr. Seuss, to work around being banned from extracurricular activities in response to being caught drinking on campus (prohibition being in effect at the time).

            After graduating from Dartmouth, he continued his education at Lincoln College in Oxford, intent on pursuing his Ph.D. in English Literature.  It was here he would meet his future (first) wife Helen Palmer, who convinced him to give up on being an English teacher in favor of pursuing drawing, noting that his notebooks were always filled with doodles of fantastical creatures.  He left Lincoln College without earning his degree and returned to America in 1927, taking up residence in New York and eventually taking a job as a writer/illustrator at Judge magazine and marrying Helen on Nov. 29 of the same year.  This would lead to advertising work with such magazines as Life, Liberty, and Vanity Fair.

            His first children’s book came about in 1936, that being And to Think that I Saw It on Mulberry Street.  This would be followed by four more books by 1940, just before the U.S. entered World War II.  Geisel put his career as a children’s book author on hold during the war to focus his efforts on writing and illustrating political cartoons, drawing posters for the Department of the Treasury, and serving as commander of the animation department of the U.S. Air Force, where he wrote training and war propaganda films.

            After the war, he and his wife moved to San Diego, California, where he resumed his career as a children’s author, writing some of his most famous works in the following years, including The Cat in the Hat (1957), Horton Hears a Who! (1955), Green Eggs and Ham (1960), and How the Grinch Stole Christmas! (1957).  He also wrote the musical feature film The 5000 Fingers of Dr. T (1953), though the movie was considered a commercial and critical failure and would result in Geisel never writing another feature film again.  He also began writing books under a separate pen name, Theo LeSeig, which was used for books written by Geisel but illustrated by other artists.  During this period, he was awarded an honorary doctorate of Humane Letters from Dartmouth College in 1955, though he had to delay accepting the honor until 1956 due to Helen becoming ill.  Helen would continue struggling with illness until 1967, when she took her own life.  After losing Helen, Geisel would go on to meet and eventually marry Audrey Dimond in 1968, who would be by his side until his later death.

            In the following years, some of Dr. Seuss’ works would be adapted into animated television specials, including the famous adaptations of How the Grinch Stole Christmas and The Cat in the Hat.  Seuss would even adapt a few of his own works into said specials, and further wrote screenplays for original specials that were not adapted from one of his books, such as The Hoober-Bloob Highway and Pontoffel Puck Where Are You?, among others.  He was awarded another honorary doctorate of Humane Letters in 1980, this time by Whittier College, that year also receiving the Laura Ingalls Wilder Medal for his contributions to children’s literature.  In 1984, he received a special Pulitzer Prize for almost half a century’s worth of entertaining children and parents alike.

            Geisel’s final book as Dr. Seuss would be Oh, the Places You’ll Go! (1990), which has become a popular gift to graduating students.  He would die of cancer shortly thereafter on September 24, 1991; he was cremated and his ashes were spread on the Pacific Ocean.  At the time of his death, his combined works (over 60 books) had sold over 600 million copies, and had been translated into over 20 languages.  His birthday, March 2, has since been adopted as the annual date for National Read Across America Day, an initiative promoting literacy and reading.


The Stories in the Story

Works by Dr. Seuss Present in the World of the Show


Horton Hears a Who! Tells the story of Horton the Elephant and his adventures saving Whoville, a tiny planet located on a speck of dust, from the animals who mock him. These animals attempt to steal and burn the speck of dust, so Horton goes to great lengths to save Whoville from being incinerated.

In Seussical, this forms the basis for the main crux of the story and concerns two of the principal characters, namely Horton the Elephant, and Jojo, a young Whovian boy who becomes Horton’s contact on Whoville and his dear friend.


Horton Hatches the Egg: tells the story of Horton the Elephant, who is tricked into sitting on a bird's egg while its mother, Mayzie, takes a permanent vacation to Palm Beach. Horton endures a number of hardships but persists, and ultimately the egg hatches, revealing an elephant-bird, a creature with a blend of Mayzie's and Horton's features.

In Seussical, this forms the basis of Horton’s b-plot, and introduces the supporting character of Mayzie, just as flighty and aloof as her book counterpart.


Yertle the Turtle and Other Stories: Includes Yertle the Turtle, which tells the story of Yertle, king of the pond, who seeks to expand his sight (and thus, his rule) by ordering his fellow turtles to stack themselves beneath him, effectively becoming his throne.  Also includes Gertrude McFuzz, which tells the story of Gertrude, a bird with a plain, one-feather tail who yearns to have a fuller, more beautiful tail, and whose greed overtakes her to the point where her tail becomes so heavy that she can’t move.

In Seussical, Yertle has a minor part as the judge in the jungle animal’s case against Horton, while Gertrude has a more substantial part as friend of Mayzie, who’s tail she becomes jealous of, and friend (and later love interest) of Horton.  She grows her tail out to try to impress Horton and get him to notice her.


Green Eggs and Ham: Sam-I-Am offers an unnamed man a plate of green eggs and ham. However, the man refuses multiple times throughout the story by saying, "I do not like green eggs and ham. I do not like them, Sam-I-Am." Sam further asks him to eat that food in various locations, and with a few different animals, but is still rebuffed. Finally, the man accepts the offer and samples the green eggs and ham, definitively declaring that he indeed likes them after all.

In Seussical, the book is adapted as part of the show’s curtain call.


I Had Trouble Getting to Solla Sollew: A story in which the protagonist decides to make for the trouble-free city of Solla Sollew, all the while facing hardship after hardship, upon arriving at the outer wall of the city, the protagonist is told by the doorman that entry is impossible due to a creature taking up residence in the keyhole to the sole door leading inside.  The protagonist resolves to return home and face troubles, rather than running away from them.

In Seussical, Solla Sollew is treated by the characters as an unattainable ideal, a place where the troubles are few, but is constantly just out of reach.  It is the subject of a song by the same name.


How the Grinch Stole Christmas! Follows the Grinch, a grouchy, solitary creature who tries to cancel Christmas by stealing Christmas gifts and decorations from the homes of the nearby town of Whoville on Christmas Eve. Miraculously, the Grinch realizes that Christmas is not all about money and presents.

In Seussical, the Grinch makes a cameo in Whoville as the director of their annual Christmas pageant, the action of the book having presumably already taken place.


The Cat in the Hat: Centers on a tall anthropomorphic cat who wears a red and white-striped top hat and a red bow tie. The Cat shows up at the house of Sally and her brother one rainy day when their mother is away. Despite the repeated objections of the children's fish, the Cat shows the children a few of his tricks in an attempt to entertain them. In the process, he and his companions, Thing One and Thing Two, wreck the house. As the children and the fish become more alarmed, the Cat produces a machine that he uses to clean everything up and disappears just before the children's mother comes home.

In Seussical, the Cat serves as the narrator/emcee and instigator of the plot.


If I Ran the Circus: Tells the story of a cumulative fantasy driven to excess imagined by young Morris McGurk, at the expense of older store owner Mr. Sneelock.

In Seussical, Horton, while sitting on Mayzie’s egg, is captured and auctioned off to the Circus McGurkus.


The Butter Battle Book: Tells of an arms race between the Yooks and the Zooks, over a conflict centered on what side of bread one should spread their butter.  The conflict escalates until both sides develop a tiny but powerful bomb which neither side has a defense against, and the book ends without a conclusion, leaving the threat of mutually assured destruction hanging as both sides hold their respective bombs ready to drop.

In Seussical, Jojo is sent to military school and drafted into the army, where General Schmitz is leading his troops in a conflict against those who butter their bread sides down, in reference to the conflict between the Yooks and the Zooks from the book.


Oh, the Thinks You Can Think! A book is about the many amazing 'thinks' one can think and the endless possibilities and dreams that imagination can create.

In Seussical, this is adapted as the show’s opening number.

Seussical Show History

by Music Theatre International from




Seussical is an amalgamation of stories by Theodore Seuss Geisel (AKA Dr. Seuss). His 46 children's book are staples in the world of American children's literature and the cultural impact of these stories has been profound since he began writing in the 1930s. Prior to Seussical, Dr. Seuss work had been adapted for both television and film, in some cases by Geisel himself. Seussical is primarily based on the Dr. Seuss stories, "Horton Hears a Who," "Horton Hatches an Egg" and "The One-Feathered Tail of Gertrude McFuzz," although it incorporates many references to other Dr. Seuss stories.



After shaky beginnings, Stephen Flaherty and Lynn Ahrens' Seussical began its journey with a two-week reading of the show in New York. This reading was followed by a month-long workshop in Toronto in the summer of 1999. At that initial workshop, there were no costumes or scenery and only minimal props. Yet, the effect was magical. As Ahrens wrote "The strength of the workshop was its simplicity, its rough-around-the-edges charm, its intimacy." The invited audiences loved the presentation, and Seussical was immediately dubbed Broadway's "next big hit."

But some complications happened on the way to New York, and by the time the show opened on Broadway in 2000, it had been turned into a big, splashy production that was quite different from what had worked so well in the initial workshop. The show played at the Richard Rodgers Theater for six months, where audiences loved it. Ultimately, however, Seussical did not realize its potential, primarily because it was not the show the authors had envisioned. When the show closed on May 20, 2001, it was an emotional night for the actors and writers who believed so strongly in the essential material.

When producer, Ken Gentry, decided to produce a national tour, the authors welcomed the opportunity to revisit their work. They made small changes in the book and score, allowing Jojo to become more of a force in the storytelling. Most importantly, they sought to pare down the physical aspects of the production, advocating a "less is more" approach. The reviews for that tour were overwhelmingly positive. A second national tour was launched in 2003, bringing the joys of Seussical to an even wider audience.

When the amateur rights to the show were released in 2004, hundreds of schools and community theatres jumped at the chance to produce it.


Cultural Influence

  • A big, splashy Broadway production was not the right context for Seussical The Musical. When the authors retooled the show for the National Tour to make a more pared down, easier to produce version, it was a success. Inspired by this tailoring of the show, two additional versions of Seussical, Seussical JR. and Seussical TYA, specifically for young audiences and performers were created from the original.

  • Seussical ranks among the top-three most licensed properties in MTI's catalog, with three versions now available.

  • Despite its short Broadway run, Seussical earned a lot of attention as the first Broadway show following Flaherty and Ahrens success with Ragtime. It was featured in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade and the cast featured celebrity replacements such as Rosie O'Donnell and teen singing sensation, Aaron Carter.



  • Ahrens and Flaherty were invited to write Seussical immediately after their show, Ragtime, had a triumphant opening on Broadway. The producer of that show, Garth Drabinsky, had secured the musical rights to Dr. Seuss' most famous stories. But, before the authors had even finished their first draft, Livent, Drabinsky's production company, was unexpectedly plunged into bankruptcy.

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