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Lawrence County performers help bring Seuss to life

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. - Amber Pappas spins off stage, emitting a radiant glow from both her smile and her yellow tie-dye leotard.

For two hours a night, Pappas chides an elephant for believing in a planet on a clover, boogies in a jungle and other increasingly odd activities in First Stage Theatre Company's production of "Seussical: The Musical."

This weekend at the Huntington High School Auditorium, the Cat and the Hat, Horton the Elephant, the Grinch and a cast of characters will sing, scream, wiggle and dance their way through a crash course in Seuss' greatest hits, with some help from three budding Lawrence County starlets: Grayson Collins and Alex Gillispie of Chesapeake and Amber Pappas of Proctorville.

"Seussical" is 11-year-old Alex Gillispie's second show with First Stage Children's Theatre, and she said it's been one of her best, and most difficult, theatrical experiences.

"It's awesome, it's amazing," Gillispie said. "(First Stage) said that this is the most ambitious show that they've ever done, and I believe them. But it's been a lot of work, this is probably the most work I've done on any play."

Pappas, a fourth-grader at Fairland West Elementary, disagrees with Gillispie's feelings on the show's difficulty, save for one important exception.

"Not really, it's been easy," Pappas said. When questioned as to why she felt this way, she giggled as if it was the most obvious thing in the world. "(Choreographer) Mary (Smirl) has good things to teach, and they're easy. Some of it is hard, like 'Green Eggs and Ham' Š but that's one I'm not in."

Though "Green Eggs and Ham" gets just one song in its honor, many of the Seuss stories get the royal treatment. The musical manages to intertwine the beloved tales of "Horton Hears a Who," "How the Grinch Stole Christmas," "The Cat in the Hat,"

"McElligot's Pool" and several others into one seamless story.

Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty (the creative team behind "Ragtime the Musical") along with Eric Idle (of Monty Python fame) have accomplished the nigh impossible with "Seussical": a coherent mish-mash of stories that were already pretty out there to begin with.

Though to the uninitiated it may sound gimmicky, through solid writing and the energy of the performers, the show manages to grow from a novel idea to an exciting two hours of theatrical cotton candy.

According to Pappas, the appeal of Seussical, much like the books it's based on, manages to grab parents and children alike.

"It's entertaining," Pappas said, "and a lot of people from the show you can read about in the books, like 'Horton' I read that before, and 'The Cat in the Hat' I always liked to read that."

Tickets are $10 for adults and $8 for children and senior citizens. Tickets will be available at the door and in advance at Borders Books at the Huntington Mall and at Medicap Pharmacy in Huntington. Group rates are available. Those who need more info about the Cat and his cronies may call (304) 736-4366.