BWW Interview: Simon Paisley Day Talks THE LORAX at Mirvish
Dr. Seuss' pro-environmental tale, THE LORAX, is on stage at Mirvish's Royal Alex Theatre. As the voracious villain, the Once-ler, Simon Paisley Day helps bring the popular children's story to life in a colourful stage spectacle.
Simon Paisley Day took some time to answer a few questions from BroadwayWorld's Taylor Long about performing for kids, working with puppet co-stars and the impact of this morality musical.
PROFILE: Simon Paisley Day
Zodiac Sign | Aries
Favourite book as a child? The Wind In The Willows, Enid Blyton's oeuvres.
What are you listening to? Too much of my daughter's music - though she has just discovered Motown (thank heavens). Bach and Beethoven are more my bag.
What's your motto? Try and stay open. Fight injustice. Be grateful and happy in the moment.
Tell me a bit about your experience with musical theatre and theatre for younger audiences. How do captivated younger audiences create a different performing experience?
My only other experience performing for young people was early in my career, when I played King Rat in Dick Whittington at Harrogate Theatre. I entirely misjudged it and played him as a slavering psychopath, with the result that I scared the bejesus out of the poor children and had to spend many hours of my free time meeting and reassuring the traumatized kids. My experience of kids watching THE LORAX is that they are more vocal in every way than the adults. They sigh, they cry, they giggle, they gasp. And that is delicious.
Tell me about your character, The Once-ler.
The Once-ler in the book is just a pair of green gloves. You never see his face and you never get to know him properly. He is much easier to dislike (I hope) than the more fleshed-out Once-ler in the show. David Greig, who adapted it from the book, has cleverly given me a back-story, which shows me being thrown out of the tough family home and having to make my way in the world. I think it becomes easier to understand his entrepreneurial zeal in this context and the audience, who are all part of our hugely industrialized society, become implicated in the rise and rise of his business. Do we need stuff? How big do we need to get? Can't we live more simply? The Once-ler makes a lot of mistakes and repeatedly breaks the promises he has made to the Lorax but he comes to regret these betrayals profoundly.
The popular children's book The Lorax follows that very special Dr. Seuss prose - how has this been adapted to fill a two-hour musical?
In fact it is poetry rather than prose, using rhyming couplets and a very regular 4 beats-to-a-line structure. And David Greig is very faithful to Dr. Seuss's book in the way he observes this poetry. The original book only takes twenty minutes to read though, so Greig has had to add a lot of material to turn it into a full-length show. As well as adding the Once-ler's back-story, he creates a factory takeover by the animals (reminiscent of the Occupy Movement) and a factory tour with TV cameras. And then, a big unveiling of the Thneed 2.0 - the brand-new must-have accessory. The many songs and dance numbers from the show are, of course, major areas in which the original book has been expanded upon.
Have you performed with puppets before? Describe the experience of having a puppet as your scene partner.
Never, no. The three puppeteers operating The Lorax are experts and I have no trouble at all believing in the reality of my onstage partner. David, who voices him, is a highly experienced classical actor (as well as puppeteer) and he brings an amazing depth and humour to the little orange fella.
Tell me about the music in this piece.
Joyous, exuberant, foot-tappingly catchy. Sometimes camp, sometimes daft, sometimes achingly beautiful. Written by Charlie Fink (of Noah and The Whale). My favourite number is sung by the Lorax - "Take One Last Look" - as he says goodbye to the land he is preparing to fly away from.
THE LORAX presents us with so many important themes: conservation of the environment, greediness, respect - what stands out to you in this production?
The Once-ler says towards the end that he can't go back in time, he can't un-invent thneeds. And that really resonates. We want all the trappings of progress and it is very hard to imagine a modern world without cars or central heating systems. The challenge for our time is to work with other nations, work globally, and pool our scientific know-how in order to slow down global warming and kick our fossil-fuel habit for good. The importance of friendship is perhaps the thing that really stands out for me. Put aside differences, compromise, work together for the common good.
Anything you wish to add?
Just that it is such an honour to work on something that feels so important. Children who come and see this show will be the Loraxes of tomorrow.
THE LORAX presented by Mirvish Productions, runs through January 21, 2018 at the Royal Alexandra Theatre, 260 King Street W, Toronto, ON.
For more information and to purchase tickets, visit mirvish.com