Big ideas in a package sublime: An Appreciation of The Lorax . . . in Rhyme!

Scott Sneddon

Scott Sneddon

Scott Sneddon is Senior Editor on SesayArts Magazine where he is also a critic and contributor.

Laura Caldow, David Ricardo-Pearce, Ben Thompson and Simon Paisley Day (photo: Manuel Harlan)

Hooray! The Lorax has arrived in Toronto!
Got a family? Gonna see it? You ought to!
Seuss tells great tales, is a masterful rhymer
For entertainment and education, The Lorax is a primer.
Rob Howell’s design draws on visuals from the book:
The multi-hued trees?  Could not be mistook
For another writer’s . . . nor could the birds
Swooping and spinning in aerial herds.
Dancing fish, other creatures make the scene complete:
Each actor or puppeteer is a true athlete!
Their smooth undulation, gliding movements and rhythm . . .
Mesmerizing with beauty until they succumb
To the impact of saws cutting trees:
Sharp. Jagged. A right-angled disease.
Yes, The Lorax is an environmental fable –
But with a light touch . . . don’t apply the “dogma” label.
Filled with whimsical, colorful charm,
Its rhyming narration and smooth choreography disarm.

The play prompts discussion about meaty issues:
It’s a K-12 teacher’s fondest wishes!
Three curriculum “big ideas” are prominent:
Of these, environmental education is dominant.
We begin in a wasteland. It’s the aftermath:
Non-sustainable choices have forged a destructive path.
The Onceler recalls a treed paradise. . .
Which paid the ultimate price
For his entrepreneurial hustle and greed:
Broken promises and broken trees.
Society yearns to “Bigger” everything . . .
Heedless of the Lorax’ dire warning.
(The Lorax is a puppet handled by 3 puppeteers!
His agility’s a wonder! His advocacy finds no ears.)
Pollution comes to eerie life as a shimmering plastic sheet:
The question – is our planet likewise doomed to be beat?

The Once-ler Family, Simon Paisley Day (centre); photo: Manuel Harlan

The play’s second big idea is healthy relationships.
We need a social network that supports — not trips.
The Onceler’s plight should be carefully reviewed:
Does he feel connected, included, valued?
His story has been “Biggered” — greatly expanded.
As a  youth, he loves his family . . . but is suddenly stranded.
Ejected from home, told to find his own way.
Naïve and earnest (played well by Simon Paisley Day),
He lacks a backbone, strength of character .  . .
Rationalizes poor choices, causing mayhem to occur.
When his family return, they egg him on to the worst,
No parental guidance:  they browbeat him first.
What role do his unhealthy relationships play
In the deeply destructive events on display?

Financial literacy is the third big idea.
Onceler vs Lorax? There’s no panacea.
This conflict is rooted in our market economy.
The Onceler’s not a bad man . . . just needy.
Driven
To make a livin’
As an innovator! An entrepeneur!
His ideas all fail . . . ’til he finds one winner.
A distracted man spies his nonsensical “Thneed”
Buys it, takes a selfie, says he has a definite need!
Idle desire spawns an insatiable market,
And the Lorax’s forest is the unfortunate target —
Of environmental depredation,
Fuelled by marketing innovation.
The glitz of “Thneed 2.0!” distracts
From its terrible impacts.
Who’s to blame? What’s the root?
A great discussion . . . many answers, to boot!

In short, in The Lorax are ideas aplenty
To fuel deep discussion with one child — or twenty.
Ideas skilfully wrapped in a sumptuous set,
Bright costumes and performances you’ll not soon forget.
So pack up the family! To Royal Alex make tracks . . .
To smile, think, debate . . . courtesy of The Lorax!

Simon Paisley Day, Laura Caldow, Ben Thompson and David Ricardo Pearce (photo: Manuel Harlan)

News You Can Use

What: Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax, adapted for the stage by David Grieg; Music & lyrics by Charlie Fink; Choreography by Drew McOnie; Directed by Max Webster

Featuring: Simon Paisley Day (The Once-ler), David Ricardo-Pearce (The Lorax: voice and puppeteer), Michael Ajao (Small Ed), Joe Alessi (Once-ler Dad, Mayor, Inspector), Josh Baker (Once-ler family), Jack Beale (Storyteller, musician), Laura Caldow (The Lorax: puppeteer), Hannah Fairclough (Once-ler family), Owain Gwynn (Storyteller), Romina Hytten (Storyteller),Wendy Mae Brown (Granny Once-ler, Van Goo), Kirsty Malpass (Once-ler Mum, Samelore Bews), Kerri Norville (Once-ler family, McCann), Ben Thompson (The Lorax: puppeteer), Ellen Vincent (Once-ler family, McGee, Inspector), Silas Wyatt-Barke (Storyteller, musician), Davide Direnzo (Drums), Patrick Kilbride (Bass)

Who: Whole family
When: On stage until January 21, 2018
Where: Royal Alexandra Theatre, 260 King Street W., Toronto, ON
Info and tickets: Mirvish.com and 416.872.1212 (toll free: 1.800.461.3333)

Teaching Tools

1. Ontario Curriculum Connections:

  • Language/English (Listening to Understand, Speaking to Communicate, Reading for Meaning & Critical Literacy)
  • Drama (Reflecting, Responding and Analysing)
  • Social Studies (Grades 1-6: People and Environments; Grade 7 Geography: Physical Patterns in a Changing World and Natural Resources around the World: Use and Sustainability; Grade 8 Geography: Global Settlement: Patterns and Sustainability and Global Inequalities: Economic Development and Quality of Life)

2. Themes and Motifs:

  • Personal responsibility and integrity
  • Small decisions can have big consequences
  • Doing the right thing can be hard
  • The implications of consumerism
  • Fashion trends are not always benign

© 2017 Scott Sneddon, Sesaya

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