John Howell Column

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, February 23, 2010

John Howell Sr.

Seussical the Musical presented by county’s cultural treasure

By the time we got our tickets for the Saturday night performance at the Panola Playhouse of Seussical the Musical, they were almost sold out.

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We got the last four. And oh, what a show we saw!

Seussical the Musical combined many of the familiar stories of Dr. Seuss and debuted on Broadway in 2000.  After viewing the Saturday night performance in Sardis, it’s easy to understand why it has become a favorite in school and community theaters.

Dr. Seuss stories are fun. Always have been. And when the cast of nearly four dozen actors took to the stage last weekend to present those stories, their performance projected immediately to the audience the fun they were having on stage.

Of course, the actors’ fun was no accident. It was so well performed — the timing and delivery of lines and songs, the choreography, the production in its entirety — that the actors knew it and capitalized on that confidence, communicating it to us so that we enjoyed it all the more.

Panolian staff writer Emily Williams also attended Seussical the Musical last weekend and plans a review for the Friday edition, so I’ll leave further description of the performance to her. Except to say that in an era when the entertainment media is so dominated by technologically-enhanced special effects, Playhouse director and producer Vic and Robin Henson — and the host of others, from the dozens of actors to the many production volunteers — create their own special effects through live stage performance. It’s called magic, and during those moments at Seussical the Musical, the actors transport the audience with them away from the confines of a small stage in an old movie theater building to a land where Who-ville exists on a tiny speck of dust.


The weekend visit to Who-ville also provided moments of reflection on what a cultural treasure this county has in the Panola Playhouse. The Playhouse will celebrate its 50th anniversary in 2012. Sometimes when I’m walking those aisles I recall productions of long ago and the wonderful and colorful community characters who were the actors back during those early days.

Our dad was among them. Hunt Howell took parts in Panola Playhouse productions from the time of its founding in 1962. The most impressive must have been his portrayal of the hypochondriac Argan in Moliere’s The Imaginary Invalid. The Playhouse presented it during the 1967-’68 season, and people still mention that to me.

When we arrived for Saturday night’s performance, Sardis’ Main Street was bustling. With two new restaurants filled with diners and the night’s Playhouse performance about to begin,  people and their vehicles were everywhere.

And from Seussical the Musical’s printed program — the Playhouse very thoughtfully provides a program that includes biographical information about each actor — I learned that the cast included students from at least 16 area schools and home-schoolers as well.

The schools and communities represented include Green Hill, North Delta, Magnolia Heights, Batesville Junior High, Batesville Elementary, Batesville Middle, Senatobia Jr. High, Senatobia Middle, Independence Middle, South Panola High, North Panola Jr. High, Hernando High, Kirk Academy, Southaven Jr. High as well as Delta State University and Northwest Mississippi Community College.

The Playhouse provides a venue where creative young people from northwest Mississippi can develop talent and friendships that will serve them a lifetime. And they do it on a shoe string budget because so many creative adults give willingly of their means and time to make it possible.

The Panola Playhouse is a great, ongoing story. See the next act unfold this weekend when Seussical the Musical will again be presented Friday and Saturday nights and Sunday afternoon. Tickets are easy reserved at