The Twin Cities really is very lucky to have CTC right in our backyard. Not only do they provide numerous opportunities for children and fantastic productions but they often bring U.S. World Premieres to us, and they've done it again. This year they've done it again by bringing a beloved story to the stage, in partnership with the Old Globe and the Old Vic, to bring Dr. Seuss's The Lorax to the stage, and I'm so happy they did. The show is a lot more than just a cute Dr. Seuss story, but probably his most critically acclaimed stories of his. It's a light-hearted story however it does involve a lot of cautionary messages about the environment, so much that when it first was published, a city in California banned it because of the way it portrayed the logging industry.
The story involves a Once-ler and how he searches for his place in the world. Upon searching he finds paradise with beautiful animals and trees. Within the paradise, he discovers the softness and silk-like foliage that grows on the top of the Truffula trees. He knits them into a Thneed, a versatile garment. The Lorax "who speaks for the trees" emerges from a tree trunk to put a stop to it. They form a friendship and the Once-ler promises not to cut down any more trees as it'll hurt the environment and the environment. After the Lorax leaves, the Once-ler soon realizes that he can harvest more Truffula trees after he sells one of his creations. He calls his family to come help him create more and soon after they begin tearing down trees to create more Thneeds. Before anyone knew it, the family of Once-ler's begin tearing down trees at a fast rate. The Lorax, with the help of the other creatures, begins to protest the factory and attempts to stop them from destroying the paradise area. Before long, the Once-ler realizes there are no more trees left, and the land he promised to protect, is nothing but a desert of stumps. The Once-ler, now realizing what he's done, tries to make amends with the Lorax again, however, the Lorax leaves the paradise leaving the Once-ler with his own thoughts on what he's done.
So yes, it's a depressing story. It's quite sad and I'll admit that I cried...three times. I can't even begin to describe the emotions that I felt during this show. I think this is one of the most ambitious shows I've seen CTC do. Not only because of the technical aspects of the show but because of the message that the Lorax tells. When I think of a Children's show teaching a lesson to kids, I think of acceptance and being nice, however, this goes so much deeper. It's an amazing educational show that can teach kids about the interconnectedness of an ecosystem, sustainability, social responsibility and the preservation of the environment. Something that CTC does in all of their programs is creating a page or two for parents to go over with the kids. This program had a section to challenge families to make different choices that impact the environment including:
- Having a plastic-free day
- Have a zero-waste day
- Bring a reusable bag to the stores
- Instead of driving, walk or ride your bike
- Unplug electronics when not in use (Tip: Plug all chargers into a power strip and unplug the power strip when not in use.)
Dr. Seuss created many words for his children books. I feel as if I need to create my own positive adjective to use in describing how amazing the cast and creative team are in this production because they are all THAT GOOD. I can't even begin to put into words. The cast is all local and many play multiple roles, including all filling in from time to time as the narrator of the show. Steven Epp is one of the few actors who play only one role. He plays the Once-ler and manages to trick you into liking him, then hating him, maybe liking him again, just like he did the Lorax. He's charming and energetic across the stage during multiple numbers.
The actual character of the Lorax is the most impressive thing in this entire production. I've always adored puppets in theater, who doesn't love puppets!? Puppets can enhance a production in such unique and innovative ways and they certainly do in this production. The Lorax is brought to life by multiple people (shout out to the puppet director Finn Caldwell). Meghan Kreidler, Rick Miller, and H. Adam Harris, who also voices the great mustached character. These three bring a whole new meaning to the word "ensemble" and "in sync." It was one of the most impressive technical theatre skills I've seen. The way they all three were constantly in sync with each other really was amazing. Each managed to give this puppet so much life that after a few minutes of seeing him on stage, your imagination kicks in and you forget he's even a puppet. All three manage to give the Lorax such a realistic personality it is as if they are breathing life right into him.
Many of the other actors play other puppets as well including fish and birds. CTC really is a magical place and at one point, as the paradise was revealed to the audience, a few of the actors went down to the first row and flew majestic yellow Seuss-like birds above the audience. My jaw dropped because it really was magical to not only see that but also to see the sheer excitement that kids have. It makes me tear up for a bit and I remember leaning over to my friend and saying "This is why I love coming to CTC shows. To see the kid's reactions."
This show is a musical and I must say it's catchy. I often find myself leaving CTC humming along to whatever song I can remember. They are so clever and with a Seuss twist even more fun. The only thing I find sad about musicals at CTC is sometimes they are original or premieres that aren't on Broadway so often they don't have a soundtrack. I always want to go back and listen to them over and over again because I enjoy them that much!
I can honestly say it was probably my favorite show I've ever seen at CTC. The way they can put a beloved classic story on stage while also teaching kids educational lessons is the reason why Time magazine calls them the #1 Children's Theatre in the nation.
This important, yes important, whimsical musical plays at CTC through June 10th. It's approximate run time is 2 hours, including a 15-minute intermission.