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Hamilton Theatre Inc. presents the magic of SEUSSICAL THE MUSICAL

The production based on the works of Dr. Seuss is the theatre company's longest-running show to date and will feature a special relaxed performance matinee to suit those who are neurodivergent or otherwise face barriers in a typical theatre setting.

Fantastical. Magical. Musical.

SEUSSICAL THE MUSICAL, presented by Hamilton Theatre Inc., runs until March 10. SEUSSICAL is HTI’s longest-running show to date, with 11 performances spread over four weeks.

A musical comedy based on the stories of one of the most iconic children’s authors of all time, Theodor “Seuss” Geisel (who wrote under the pen name Dr. Seuss), sounds like – well – a licence to print money. Indeed, the website of Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty, the duo who co-wrote the book and music in 2000, notes that SEUSSICAL is “one of the most frequently performed shows in America.”

And yet, despite an early bidding war by New York theatre producers, the Broadway production of SEUSSICAL ran for only 198 performances, lost $11 million, and was savaged by critics. It’s been called one of the worst flops in Broadway history. How do we square the two realities?

Seussical The Musical at Hamilton Theatre Inc. is a magical take on the stories of Dr. Seuss. Photo: Josh Arcari

It turns out that the musical has found its true footing and popularity among school, community, and regional theatre companies. Teryn Lawson, the lead producer of HTI’s production, says “there is a whimsical appeal to SEUSSICAL that makes it fun for all ages.” It has wide appeal as a family-friendly entertainment option with its “vibrant visuals” and “lively music,” she notes. 

The musical’s zany plot incorporates elements of Horton Hears a Who!, Gertrude McFuzz, Horton Hatches the Egg, as well as almost two dozen other stories by Dr. Seuss.

The show begins with The Cat in the Hat recounting the tale of Horton the Elephant, who finds a speck of dust which, amazingly, holds Who-ville. Among the Whovians, Horton encounters Jojo, a child sent off to military school by his parents for the crime of thinking too many (inconvenient) "thinks." Horton faces ever increasing challenges to protect the Whos – as well as an egg! – from danger & destruction. Notions of friendship, loyalty, family and community are challenged throughout Horton’s adventures but prove victorious in the end.

In the space of a few short months, HTI has put an ambitious show together, led by director Josh Arcari. “From storybook to stage, this production has been a testament to our amazing cast and crew's hard work and dedication,” Arcari says. The cast is composed of both newcomers and experienced performers, and Teryn Lawson says that Arcari has cultivated each performer’s personal strengths and worked to let everyone “have their moment” on stage.

Amanda Cosby-Nesbitt of Steel City Girl Reviews has already confirmed that there are a number of standout performances in this production, including Jojo (newcomer Emma Grace Stead) and Horton the Elephant (Craig Winterburn), but reserves her greatest praise for The Cat in the Hat himself, who is played by Jacob Rushton “with absolute joy, wit, and powerhouse vocals.”

As a first time producer with Hamilton Theatre Inc., Lawson speaks of the HTI community in glowing terms. “I encourage anyone interested in getting involved with community theatre in Hamilton to reach out.” And it has certainly been a community effort. SEUSSICAL is a spectacle made up of many elements, including musical and vocal performance, choreography, art, set and costume design as well as technical ingenuity.

Seussical The Musical runs at Hamilton Theatre Inc. until March 10. Photo: Josh Arcari

The costumes were created by HTI’s new team, the Hamilton Muses, a trio of creative professionals and self-reported “theatre nerds.” There have been new DMX lighting and audio system upgrades. On social media, art director Alifa Frebian remarks that “the talented art department and fantastic crew of volunteers really shine through in this show, and I couldn’t be more pleased with what we’ve accomplished.” HTI notes that all of the props and sets have been hand-painted. 

Lawson highlights one additional achievement in the set design for this production that would not have been possible without the dedication of the crew of volunteers: “In order to accommodate the large number of locations in SEUSSICAL, we decided to create an accordion-style rail system that allows for the flats to unfold across the stage … a lot of trial and error went into making the prototype. Many hours were put into smoothening the transitions and ensuring the system’s structural integrity,” she said.

“Fun fact: it takes four stagehands to move the flats during transitions.”

Something extra that jumps out of the promotional materials is the inclusion of a “relaxed performance” on March 9. What is a relaxed performance? The aim is “to create a sensory-friendly experience,” Lawson explains. Traditionally, of course, theatre audiences have been expected to behave themselves in a fairly formal manner, keeping still and quiet.

While the show itself will be the same, the audience’s environment will be modified through technical adjustments. The lights will be dimmed and the sound lowered to make things more comfortable and less overwhelming for audience members who are neurodivergent or may face other barriers in a typical theatre setting. In addition, earplugs and face masks will be available at the box office. Individuals will be able to make noise or move around if they need to during the performance.

What was the motivation to add this element to the show’s run? 

“I was initially introduced to the concept of relaxed performances after attending a workshop focused on theatre accessibility through my mentorship with Femmepire (a local arts collective) and Hamilton Fringe’s ALERT Program,” Lawson says. “I was also motivated by my own mother who works with children with special needs, and the positive impact that care-centred initiatives in the arts can have on personal development and mental health.” 

A new approach can stir up apprehension but Lawson explains that at HTI, the addition of a relaxed performance came as both a response to community feedback and in consideration of the theatre company’s technical capabilities. Lawson hopes to see more relaxed performances implemented in future by both community and professional theatre companies. 

“There is definitely an audience for relaxed performances in Hamilton, and I hope that using SEUSSICAL as an example will start a conversation surrounding inclusive initiatives in local theatre.”

The doors open a half hour before each performance, and the show's run time, including intermission, is 2 hours and 20 minutes.  


Seussical The Musical (for audience members 4+)
March 1, 8 at 7 p.m.
March 2, 3, 9, 10 at 2 p.m.
The Saturday, March 9 matinee will be a RELAXED PERFORMANCE.
Tickets available here.
HTI’s Studio Theatre, 140 MacNab St. N., Hamilton.