Meghan Rivard, left, and Lou Ford play two key characters in Midcoast Youth Theater’s upcoming performance of “Seussical the Musical.” Costumes were still being designed at the time of the photo. Alex Lear / The Forecaster

BRUNSWICK — Dr. Seuss was a big part of Lou Ford’s and Meghan Rivard’s childhoods. Now the young actors are bringing Seuss’ stories to life as two key characters in “Seussical the Musical.”

The Midcoast Youth Theater’s winter musical takes the Crooker Theater stage at Brunswick High School Jan. 9-12.

“Being 25, it’s so nice to lean into a world that’s so mischievous and so comical,” Ford, a Brunswick resident, said in an interview Dec. 21. “It’s one of those roles where you just get to let go. Which is also kind of the hardest part of it: being so open and crazy onstage takes a lot of work.”

“It’s kind of like being a kid again,” Ford added.

Rivard, a 12-year-old from Turner who prides herself on being “a huge bookworm,” still enjoys reading Seuss’ stories.

“I was really excited to be in the show because I’ve always loved Dr. Seuss, and I read it to my little cousin sometimes at parties,” she said.

This is Brunswick resident Eddie Hatrick’s first time directing the show, which premiered on Broadway in 2000. “Seussical” is a mashup of about 15 Seuss stories, but is derived mostly from “Horton Hears a Who!” in the first act, and “Horton Hatches the Egg” in the second.

“It’s a brand new narrative, so no one who comes to the show, not having seen it before, will know what’s going to happen or where it’s going,” Hatrick said.

Rivard’s character is initially an unnamed child whose “thinks” bring the Cat in the Hat to life. The Cat, played by Ford, forms a world based on Seuss’s stories, and ultimately brings the child into the story as the character of Jojo McDodd, one of the Mayor of Whoville’s 97 children.

Both Ford and Rivard have been doing theater for about half their lives. Knowing the Cat would be in the show drew Ford’s interest. Rivard, recently playing the lead in “Annie” in Windham, decided three days before auditions that she wanted to try out; she was happily stunned to learn she was getting such a major part.

“The Cat is a very interesting role, because he doesn’t have a lot of emotional weight (in) the story, but creates the story, so I’m on stage I’d say 99% of the time,” Ford said. “And if I’m not on stage, I’m just getting ready to do something else.”

While the Cat and JoJo create the story, Horton the Elephant, played by Rich Ellis of Brunswick, “probably has the most emotional journey, beginning to end,” Hatrick said.

Even though “Seussical” is a Midcoast Youth Theater show, produced by Meleena Sheffler, the roughly 60-member cast – which includes Myrtle the Turtle and a host of Whos – range in age from about age 5 to the 50s. Although summer programming is age-specific, parents and grandparents can take part in the shows the rest of the year, Hatrick said.

The nearly 2 ½-hour show begins at 7 p.m. Thursday-Saturday, Jan. 9-11, and 2 p.m. Saturday-Sunday, Jan. 11-12. Tickets range from $7.50 to $15 and are available at the door or in advance at mytseussical.brownpapertickets.com.

“We’re hopeful that the audience is going to be full of people who either have just been introduced to Dr. Seuss, or have seen a couple movies or read a couple books, but still have a long lifetime of Seuss in front of them,” Hatrick said. “… Even though the actors have a lot of room for creativity within the roles, you want to protect what makes Seuss so special.”

With messages throughout the play about war and peace, acceptance and diversity, Hatrick said, “I think every actor in the show is happy and proud to be putting on a story with those angles.”

Given the show’s dead-of-winter timing, “I’m hoping that people will want to come as an escape, and sit there just for the ride of it all,” Ford said.

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