(Haaretz) — Almost no work of children’s literature can compare with the books of Dr. Seuss. Their words and illustrations carry abundant possibilities, as well as an invitation to other creative artists to take inspiration from them and run with it. Anyone who has read Dr. Seuss’s works knows about the places you’ll go when you’re immersed in its pages.
Maybe, like Lewis Carroll’s “Alice in Wonderland,” Seuss’s main characters − like the Cat in the Hat, Horton the elephant, the Grinch and the Lorax − are simply compelling, and the illustrations open the door to a visual production. In that case, it is surprising that there are not many theatrical adaptations of Dr. Seuss’s works.
But Theodor Seuss Geisel did not like the idea of his works being adapted for film or the stage. He saw that as crass commercialism; others saw him as an uncompromising purist. Geisel permitted the making of animated films based on his works, because he saw animation as the art form that was closest to the spirit of his illustrations.
The Warner Brothers film version of “Horton Hears a Who!” reached the big screen as early as 1942, with another film following every 20 years or so.
The embargo ended after Geisel’s death in 1991. Over the past decade, one of his books has been adapted every few years. “Seussical: The Musical,” a light, cheery production based on various Dr. Seuss books and mostly on Horton Hears a Who!, which was a success and remained on the American stage. The plot, in short: Horton the elephant sees tiny creatures, actually a whole city, on a grain of dust, but no one believes him.
The story of the tiny creatures forms the subplot, with the slightly kitschy messages that Americans like to pour into children’s films: a merging between individualism and the ethic of protecting the weak, which takes the form of the musical’s motto − that one must mean what one says and say what one means. As Horton says: “A person’s a person, no matter how small.”
This week, Seussical! will be performed in Israel for the first time. The English-speaking group Israel Musicals, which specializes in musical theater, is producing it, so the show will be in English with Hebrew surtitles.