Imagine all of your favourite characters from your favourite author’s back catalogue of books came together to star in a musical? That’s exactly what is going down at the Southwark Playhouse this Christmas in Seussical The Musical. Filled with larger than life characters, the musical has something for everyone with topics in the show covering bullying, inclusivity, unrequited love and a whole lot more. I managed to grab a few moments with cast members Amy Perry, Scott Paige, Adam Dawson and Marc Pickering to find out more of their characters and whose work they would adapt into a musical.
HS: Who do you play in Seussical The Musical and how does your character fit into the overall storyline of the show?
Amy Perry: I play Gertrude McFuzz in Seussical The Musical. Gertrude is a bird who is very insecure about her one-feather-tail and is totally – unbeknownst to him – in love with Horton the Elephant. She spends the show battling adversities, and her inhibitions, in order to help Horton save Whoville and finally get him to notice her!
Scott Paige: I play Horton the Elephant. Horton is sort of the main focal point of the show, as after hearing a voice on a speck of dust, his quest is to find what is on that speck and convince the Jungle of Nool creatures that he isn’t going crazy and hopefully meet someone who’s alone in the universe, like himself.
Adam Dawson: I play two characters, the Mayor of Who and Wickersham 1. Taking the role of the patriarchal male, the Mayor ends up relying on his daughter Jojo, to save their planet using her thinks which he has tried to suppress for so long. Wickersham 1 is one of three brothers who steal the clover from Horton which has the planet of Who nestled inside.
Marc Pickering: I play Cat in the Hat. He’s a sort of host and MC of the show, I guess. He spots the curious ‘Thinker’ in Jojo and guides her through the world of Seuss using her extraordinary imagination. The Cat is the essence of mischief and fun who gets a bit carried away but always manages to make things right again.
HS: What was your first experience of Dr Seuss and his work?
Amy Perry: I have always been a Dr Seuss fan – Green Eggs and Ham was the first book I ever read completely by myself, and I was hooked from then! After that I worked my way through his entire collection. I was given Oh, The Places You’ll Go when I graduated drama school, and its message was still as prevalent then as when I was little.
Scott Paige: I think in school we read the books, but in all honestly I can’t remember. I actually read Horton Hears A Who for the first time a couple of weeks ago. I loved it!
Adam Dawson: My first experience was auditioning for this production. I wasn’t exposed to Dr. Seuss as a child and have had the pleasure of discovering the worlds he created very recently.
Marc Pickering: Unfortunately I’d never read the books as a child and after reading a few of them since we started rehearsals I know I will definitely be reading my kids these amazing stories. I remember seeing the cartoon version of The Grinch when I was a kid and then the movie version with Jim Carey, who I’ve always been a fan of as a kid. So I’m so chuffed to be doing this part as it’s very Carey-esque
HS: When taking on well-known characters, do you approach the character with fresh eyes or do you use the source material/other interpretations to influence your approach?
Amy Perry: I think it’s important to immerse yourself in the world you’re trying to create. With characters that already exist, you have to come at it with a sense of knowledge about the origins, because this gives you the freedom to acknowledge this and then put your interpretation on top too! It’s important you make your mark on a character because there are so many more facets in a real person than can be communicated in a picture book, but so many answers you may have about a character can be found by delving into the world it all started in!
Scott Paige: I think it’s so important to make it as fresh as possible when playing a role that’s familiar to everyone. No one like a carbon copy of someone else who has played the part previously, so it’s always lovely to put your own spin on things and make the role your own.
Adam Dawson: I always read source material – I think as an actor it’s important to understand where the characters or the inspiration for the piece has come from. I try to stay away from watching other productions and listening to other recordings so I can find my own interpretation.
Marc Pickering: The thing with Cat is that, there’s no specific way to play him really, that’s up to the individual and the director’s interpretation. I read the books, I watched the film and I’ve tried to stay true to what has already been seen of this character but I’ve also put my own spin on it. I like the fact that you don’t have to spoon feed kids and be too over the top. Kids are very clever and pick up on the smallest detail, so you can bring more subtleties to the part then I first thought which is great because I think adults will like it too.
HS: What are you most looking forward to about performing for younger audiences?
Amy Perry: I think younger audiences will be totally spellbound by this musical – I’m so excited for them to see it unfold around them in such an immersive theatre space. It is a show that has something for all ages, and I think the fact families will come along and share such a theatrical experience – and for some it may be their first musical, or experience in a theatre – is really important. In a time where children are disappearing into technology, engaging them in storytelling and reminding them of the importance of imagination is paramount. I’m hoping we inspire a few Thinkers ourselves!
Scott Paige: Seeing how much they partake in the show – there is some audience participation in the show at points, so I can’t wait to see how they will react!
Adam Dawson: Most of our younger audiences will have imagined the worlds of Dr. Seuss for so long and I can’t wait to bring the characters to life visually for them with such a beautiful score for them to listen to as well.
Marc Pickering: Just knowing that this will be, for many, their first ever experience of theatre and to be a part of that and to create that absolute magical feeling for these kids is very exciting and rewarding for me.
HS: If you could adapt another author’s work into a musical who would you choose and who would you want to play?
Amy Perry: Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events would make a wonderful musical. Any stories in which the author creates such a defined and specific world makes a transfer to stage so easy, and I think the darkness and kooky characters in his novels would translate really well. And with 13 books, there’s no shortage of plot material! I’d happily take on Aunt Josephine – she reads lots of books and is terrified of leeches so rarely goes outside… what more could you want?!
Scott Paige: I’m not going to lie, I’m not a reader. I have the attention span of a goldfish, so I have never actually read a whole book (shocking I know).
Adam Dawson: I know The Great Gatsby has been turned into a play, but I think it is begging to be turned into a full scale musical. The story is so prominent and the imagery in the book lends itself to theatre. I would love to play Nick Carraway. He is a flawed narrator who becomes stuck between two worlds and ultimately loses both.
Marc Pickering: I’m not sure about a book I’ve read but I’ve always thought it would be cool to do a musical version of Drop Dead Fred. I loved that film as a kid, Rik Myall is just brilliant in it and I would obviously like to play his part. So if anyone wants to write that for me give us a shout!
Huge thanks to Amy, Scott, Adam and Marc for taking the time to tell us more about the show. Seussical The Musical runs at the Southwark Playhouse until the 29th December. For tickets and more information please visit https://southwarkplayhouse.co.uk/show/seussical/
Until next time,
Photos credit to Adam Trigg