When the stage adaptation of Dr. Seuss’s story THE LORAX first hit the stage at The Old Vic in the winter of 2015, it instantly was a hit with both theatre critics and audience. The colourful stage production by David Greig with music and lyrics by Charlie Fink, is a fun and inspiring story of how Once-ler, Paradise Valley’s go-getter meets Lorax, the magical and big-hearted creature and come face to face in a battle over the beloved truffle trees. THE LORAX is now on stage at the Royal Alexandra Theatre in Toronto until January 21, 2018.
British stage and screen actor Simon Paisley Day takes on the role as The Once-ler. We had a chance to sit down with him recently and chat about it.
What’s your favourite Dr. Seuss story?
SPD: I think this one, really. I didn’t grow up with Dr. Seuss. It’s only when I had kids did I discovered them. I have an American wife so she introduced Dr. Seuss into our family. But I have read Green Eggs & Ham, Cat and the Hat, and the rest of them. I didn’t know The Lorax.
How did you discover it then?
SPD:It was my wife Susie that said “Oh my God, you have to do The Lorax. She’s actually a conservationist biologist herself so it meant a lot to her for me to do it.
There are underlying stories or lessons in each of Dr. Seuss’s stories?
SPD: Yes, The Lorax does have a message of loving nature. I don’t know when national parks were recognized here in North America but it was probably around the 60s and 70s and this book was written then.
Dr. Seuss seemed either ahead or early in recognizing social responsibility? The first Earth Day was officially proclaimed about a year after this book was published.
SPD: Yes, and it couldn’t be more important now with what we’re seeing and hearing in the news. Think about the Arctic drilling and the Tar Sands. There’s stuff going on environmentally that needs to be slowed. I suppose the ultimate message of The Lorax is, sure things develop and progress but do they need to progress that much? Do we need to be so big?Do we need that new iPhone or a bigger car?
Do you find that kids catch on to these messages?
SPD: I suppose what is clever about the production is that you won’t find people coming out moaning about the environment. It actually celebrates it and sneaks that message in. But it’s under the guise of fun, silly, wacky, wild and glorious entertainment instead of it being brow beating.
As the Once-ler, and you’ve played the role from the start in the UK, what have you done differently to the character?
SPD: Well, in this adaptation there’s an awful lot more about the Once-ler in the play than there is in the book. I mean, you don’t see anything more than a pair of green gloves. You see a wagon and the green gloves knitting “thneed” but you see him later inside his office but again you see the long green gloves. You never see his face. He’s just a person that make things.
He’s the villain in the story?
SPD: He’s the baddie in the book. What I think is what’s clever in the production through litigating circumstances it shows Once-ler once as a young man being thrown out of his family home because he’s just a dreamer so they tell him to go out into the world and do something with himself. So, he sort of stumbles along and hopefully the audience feels a bit sorry for him. He stumbles on this thing called the “thneed” and that takes off. It becomes popular and he’s making money. Then someone suggests to him that he should expand but before he knows it, he’s become a baddie.
But not intentional? He was really egg’d on or encouraged by the community, right?
SPD: Right. He was just trying to do something and at one point he says he just can’t take it anymore as he’s signed a contract with The Lorax and it’s in writing. He wouldn’t cut down any more trees but then three lawyers pop up and tell him they could work around the contract. Once-ler then starts to thinking “oh, can we?”
Oooh. So relevant today.
SPD: (laughs)It’s very clever as it shows the slippery nature of human self deception and persuading one’s self of the things that you need in life.
Speaking of things we need in life, what was the last thing you bought that you didn’t need?
SPD: Well, I did buy a second hand bike in Toronto last week.
But that’s kind of a good need and responsible, I think?
SPD: Yes, even though I enjoyed cycling in the city for about a week and not burning petrol chemicals, it might turn out that I might not need it for this weather that’s coming…but I’ll sell it back.
So, we know the show is great for families with kids?
SPD: I’m pretty confident to say that people of all ages would like this show. I’ve had adults in London come see the show without kids and found it glorious. There’s all the wit
THE LORAX is currently on stage at the Royal Alexandra Theatre in Toronto until January 21, 2018. Tickets are available at mirvish.com