“Seussical” musical takes the stage at Scottsdale’s Desert Stages Theatre

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"Seussical" at Scottsdale's Desert Stages Theatre.
“Seussical” is at Scottsdale’s Desert Stages Theatre through Sunday, Oct. 30. Isaac Speyer plays JoJo and Rob Dominguez stars as the Cat in the Hat. Photo by Heather and Dana Butcher, courtesy of Desert Stages.

What does it take to make a musical named “Seussical”?

For starters, 31 actors, 84 costumes and more than 30 songs. At least, that’s the case for Scottsdale Desert Stages Theatre, which brings the production to the stage Friday, Sept. 30 through Sunday, Oct. 30.

The musical was co-conceived by Lynn Ahrens, Stephen Flaherty and Eric Idle based on such books by Dr. Seuss (Theodor Geisel) as “Horton Hears a Who,” “Green Eggs and Ham,” “Horton Hatches the Egg” and “Miss Gertrude McFuzz.” The show debuted on Broadway in 2000, and two national tours followed — the first starring Cathy Rigby as the Cat in the Hat.

Musical direction for “Seussical” at Desert Stages is Elizabeth Spencer, and choreography is by Madison MacDonald, both Valley theater veterans. Directing “Seussical” is Dan Ashlock. In addition to numerous other credits, he directed “Moon Over Buffalo” for Desert Stages and appeared in its productions of “Miracle on 34th Street,” “Rumors” and “42nd Street.”

“The story, narrated by the Cat in the Hat, — hilariously portrayed by Rob Dominguez — all takes place in a young boy’s mind,” Ashlock says. “Isaac Speyer skillfully brings this young boy, JoJo from Whoville, to life.

“We have an outstanding cast, made up of actors ages 8 through 50,” Ashlock adds. “Some will be familiar to DST audiences, and some are gracing our stage for the first time. The show has been performed by many children’s theaters around the Valley, but this is the first time in a while that the show has been staged with adults as the principal characters.”

"Seussical" the musical. Photo courtesy of Desert Stages Theatre.
The Cat in the Hat (Rob Dominguez) leads the Seussical Band in “Seussical” the musical.

Though he’s always been a dog person, Dominguez  chose to become a cat person this year so he could take the part of the Cat in the Hat, who has fun stirring things up, but always to a good end. He has also appeared as Lurch in “The Addams Family” and Joe in “9 to 5 the Musical” at Desert Stages. Other credits include Adolpho in “The Drowsy Chaperone” for Desert Foothills Theater and Bert Bratt in “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying” and Lt. Joseph Cable in “South Pacific” for Don Bluth Front Row Theatre.

Isaac (JoJo) is in the fifth grade at Hopi Elementary School. He recently starred as Charlie Bucket in “Willy Wonka Jr.” for Desert Stages and also has appeared as Michael Banks in “Mary Poppins,” as the mayor in “The Wizard of Oz” for Phoenix Theatre, and as Billy in “Honk” at Greasepaint Youtheatre.

Joshua Michel plays Horton, the kindhearted gentle giant of an elephant who must protect the Whos and guard an abandoned egg, all while facing ridicule, danger and even being put on trial. Michel studies at Grand Canyon University and previously graduated from Mohave High School in Bullhead City.

Making her Arizona theater debut at DST is Mara Frumkin as the irresponsible Mayzie LaBird, who leaves the abandoned egg to Horton’s care. Mara, a Scottsdale resident, recently received her Bachelor of Fine Arts in theater studies from Texas Christian University. Among her credits are Kitty Bennet in “Pride and Prejudice” for the Stolen Shakespeare Guild in Ft. Worth, Texas and the part of Alexandra in the short film “Calavera.”

Sam Hizme plays Cindy Lou Who in "Seussical." Photo by Renee Ashlock; courtesy of Scottsdale Desert Stages Theatre.
Sam Hizme plays Cindy Lou Who in Desert Stages Theatre’s “Seussical.”

Appearing for the first time at Desert Stages is Stephanie Spencer as the intrepid Gertrude McFuzz, who believes in Horton no matter what. Born and raised in Tucson, Spencer is a Pacific Conservatory of the Performing Arts graduate who recently finished touring with Missoula Children’s Theater. For PCPA, she has performed in “My Fair Lady,” “Peter and the Starcatcher” and the world premiere of “Christmas Is Here Again!”

“Seussical is definitely suitable for the whole family,” says Ashlock. “It is like many animated movies today — a story that the kids can enjoy, with plenty of humor that adults will love.”

Through their mishaps and adventures, these “Seussical” characters learn courage in the face of oppression, the power of believing in themselves and the importance of fighting for their beliefs. So bring the family and learn along with them.

If you go: Sept. 30–Oct. 30; 7:30 p.m. Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, 2 p.m. Sundays. Scottsdale Desert Stages Theatre, 4720 N. Scottsdale Road, Scottsdale. $28; $22 seniors and students. 480-483- 1664 or desertstages.org.

Related: Desert Stages Theatre will move into Scottsdale Fashion Square.

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