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Dr. Seuss Takes Center Stage at NKU in Unique Interpretation of "Seussical"

What’s that noise that Horton the Elephant hears? Could it be coming from a speck of dust on a clover? Yes!
 
It’s the Whos, and they need help. 
 
If you grew up in the U.S in the last 60-plus years, you know we’re talking Dr. Seuss. More specifically, we’re talking a singing and dancing Dr. Seuss musical, named Seussical, which is on stage at Northern Kentucky University November 12 - 22.
 
While the Cat in the Hat is our guide through the action of the fantastical imagination of Dr. Seuss, fans will recognize Horton Hears a Who!, Horton Hatches the Egg, and Miss Gertrude McFuzz in the plot – it’s clearly Horton who is our hero. 
 
NKU senior Brandon Huber is Horton. He auditioned for The Cat in the Hat and was thrilled when he was tapped for the role that embodies the show’s heart and soul.
 
NKU theater fans will remember Huber’s terrific Inspector Javert in Les Miserables. The roles couldn’t be more different, Huber’s approach stays the same. “I want to bring something no one even sees in the character. I like to dig into the humanity.”
 
Horton, he says, is a thinker, sort of a misfit, “happy-go-lucky but he’s missing something.” 
 
When Horton embarks on an epic adventure in babysitting, “He finds a purpose and someone who believes in him.”
 
The family musical is all about the powers of friendship, loyalty, family, and community emerging triumphant. 
 
Huber is one of the millions of children who grew up on Dr. Seuss. Ask him what his favorite is and he can reel off a list starting with Green Eggs and Ham in pre-school. And there’s The Foot Book, Hop on Pop
 
Do not look for a literal interpretation of the stories, Huber warns. Even with a Broadway-sized cast (26), don’t even look for a copy of Stephen Flaherty and Lynn Ahrens’ Broadway show that opened in 2000. 
 
Director Daryl Harris sets the show in a grade school environment, and the performers are easily recognized archetypes: the shy kid, the bully, the show-off. Another twist – the actors “don’t play people dressed as animals, we’re animals dressed as people.”
 
If you think acting is about memorizing the lines, the songs, and the dance steps and going on stage – there’s a lot more to it. Musical comedy is serious business. Huber, who lives in Loveland, says he’s learned a tremendous amount during his three-plus years at NKU and much of it informs Horton’s emotional journey. 
 
Just a couple examples:
 
The Alexander Technique (getting rid of tension, moving mindfully through life), Huber explains, helps him create Horton’s lumbering walk and “taking in everything around him – Horton is a listener, not a speaker.”
 
Using the acting tool “psychological gestures” is how Huber developed specific gestures to illuminate Horton’s character. 
 
Of course, we’re not supposed to see what goes into theater. We just let the magic happen.   
 
Seussical: the Musical, Nov. 12-22. Northern Kentucky University, Corbett Theatre, Fine Arts Center, Highland Heights. Tickets $14, seniors $1, students $8. 859-572-5464 and [email protected].
 
Written by Jackie Demaline, RCN Arts
Photo by Mikki Schaffner (provided)