The Sneetches by Dr. Seuss is now a musical at Children’s Theatre Company. It was a bit more mature than I was expecting. Based on the “All Ages” recommendation and the target age of the book, I took my five-year-old son.
Before going, we read the book together several times and looked through the study materials from CTC. That helped a lot. However, the first half bored him and, even knowing the story, he had a hard time following it on stage. He kept saying, “What part is this?” Despite his inability to stay focused during the show, afterwards, he had nothing but good things to say about the experience and I think this will be a special book for him in the future.
The Sneetches Musical follows a pretty standard formula for turning kids books into Broadway Musicals. Even the music was standard Broadway music. In fact, I would expect to see this show on Broadway in the next couple years.
The book is aimed at 5 to 8 year old kids. Its story will make you think of schoolyard bullying and childhood exclusion. Children’s Theatre took this concept a few steps further into adulthood. What happens when a whole segment of the population is excluded and demeaned? As an adult, you’ll see connections to current events that will go right over your kids’ heads. Usually when Children’s Theatre tackles mature subjects in an all-ages production, they add a lot of physical humor and silly antics to balance the seriousness. That’s noticeably missing in this production. However, the fact that it is a children’s story makes it a good show for families who like musicals. The parents will get the most out of it, but it is always appropriate for even the youngest kids.
Preparing for The Sneetches Musical
Until CTC announced this season’s line up, I hadn’t even heard of The Sneetches, so we started preparing for our visit to the theatre by getting a copy of the book and the cartoon video from the library.
The story of The Sneetches, written in 1953, is a Seuss classic. With his trademark ability to take a complicated subject and turn it into a simple rhyming story, Seuss tackles exclusion, bullying, self-esteem and the advertising industry. With older kids, this would be a great time to talk about marketing tactics. It shows how marketers can exacerbate a person’s feelings of inadequacy and then offer them the product to fix that fault. For younger kids this story is a good opportunity to talk about inclusion and celebrating diversity.
The video was made in 1973. You don’t need to get if from the library; it’s available through YouTube below. I don’t think the cartoon adds anything to the experience of the book. However, as an adult who grew up in the 70s and 80s, the video felt like visiting old friends. The voice actors are all familiar from childhood cartoons.
Family Fun and Discussion After Watching The Sneetches Musical
CTC has some useful tools on their Guidance page that can be modified to family fun or discussion. This page is aimed more toward a classroom, but the activities can be adapted for a family. For instance, On the last two printed pages of the Guidance section, there are lists of questions. They are a little stiff for a family chat, but were nice to read over beforehand so I could work these concepts into our discussion on the ride home.
Besides discussion questions, CTC lists additional reading suggestions, games, and lists of vocabulary words. Some of the words were ideal for expanding grade school vocabulary.
- Identity • Discrimination • Difference • Assimilation • Segregation • Separation • Solidarity • Community • Belonging • Friendship
I liked this list that came from the Sculpture Garden game for preschool vocabulary words.
- Sneaky • Greedy • Friendship • Beach • Change • Superior • Machine • Money • Broke • Rules • Separation
Both sets would be fun words to use for a quick game of charades or Pictionary.
The Tossing and Translating Lines game can also be modified into a family parlor game. Just let the kids take turns acting out each line as you read them.