Ahrens & Flaherty Double Bill of Musicals Pairs Lorax and Emperor's New Clothes

News   Ahrens & Flaherty Double Bill of Musicals Pairs Lorax and Emperor's New Clothes Two family-friendly one-act musicals by Tony Award winners Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty will bow at Kansas City's Coterie Theatre June 26-Aug. 5 under the title Twice Upon a Time.
Evan Haas stars in The Lorax and The Emperor
Evan Haas stars in The Lorax and The Emperor Photo by Marianne Kilroy

The world premiere double bill offers The Lorax and The Emperor's New Clothes, inspired by stories by Dr. Seuss and Hans Christian Andersen, respectively.

This marks the fourth musical produced in the Coterie's Lab for New Family Musicals.

The Lorax was originally a segment from Ahrens and Flaherty's full-length, legit Seussical the Musical, a Broadway flop that has risen like a phoenix to be a hugely popular licensing property in schools, community theatres and professional resident theatres. The environmentally-aware "Lorax" section in Seussical was cut before the show arrived on Broadway.

Lynn Ahrens stated, "The Lorax has never again seen the light of day until today. It stands on its own in a wonderful way, and the Coterie is the first to recognize that. We're grateful. The Emperor's New Clothes is the second part of the program. It happens to be the first show we ever wrote that was actually produced — back in 1985! What a pleasure for us to see this seminal work brought back to life."

Lyricist Ahrens and composer Flaherty won the Best Score Tony Award for Ragtime, and penned the songs for the musicals My Favorite Year, Once On This Island, Dessa Rose, The Glorious Ones, A Man of No Importance and Lucky Stiff. Jeff Church, Coterie artistic director, directs Lorax, and Ernie Nolan directs Emperor's New Clothes.

Here's how the one-act musicals are billed:

  • Dr. Seuss's The Lorax: Bewitched by the beauty of the Truffula Trees, the Once-ler chops them down to mass produce "Thneeds." As trees swiftly disappear, our fate rests in the hands of a caring child.
  • The Emperor's New Clothes by Hans Christian Andersen: Emperor Marcus III wonders how to run an empire when he's only 14. He's reading "How to be a Better Emperor," but he's still flattered into an historic state of self-deception!" "We're very excited to merge the worlds of Dr. Seuss and Hans Christian Andersen, especially as a musical double bill," Church said in production notes. "The Lorax has a very beautiful and memorable score — while the music in The Emperor's New Clothes is quite tuneful. The scenery promises to have a lot of whimsy, and the costumes we know will delight. In addition, the ensemble cast has some favorite Coterie performers including two (Seth Golay and Lauretta Pope) who were in [Coterie's] Seussical along with a few new faces."

    Ahrens added, "Until recently, theatres that specialized in work for young audiences have had little access to Broadway writers. The Coterie has changed that. They deserve to be encouraged, not only for the exceptionally high quality and innovation of their work, but also for their dedication to providing the very best theatre for children."

    Opening night is June 29. Twice Upon a Time: The Lorax and The Emperor's New Clothes "is most appreciated by adults, teens and young people ages five and older," according to Coterie.

    The cast features Damron Armstrong (Ensemble/William), Seth Golay (Once-ler/Swindler), Jessica Dressler (Ensemble), Evan Haas (JoJo/Emperor Marcus), Chris Holbrook (Cat in the Hat/Ensemble), Lauretta Pope (Ensemble/Deena), Justin Van Pelt (The Lorax/Ensemble) and Pancho Villegas (Ensemble/Arno). Musicians are Sam Wisman (percussionist) and Molly Jessup (pianist).

    The artistic and production company includes Molly Jessup (musical director), Jon Fulton Adams (costume designer), Jon Cupit (painter/properties designer), Scott Hobart (set designer/technical director), Ron Megee (properties/puppetry designer), Art Kent (lighting designer), David Kiehl (sound designer), Laura Claus (stage manager) and Kristen Koehn (floor manager, house manager).

    For more information about Coterie Theatre, in Kansas City, MO, visit www.coterietheatre.org or call (816) 474-6552.

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