Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Talking to Adam Guinn about SEUSSICAL at Zao Theatre

Adam Guinn
photo courtesy Zao Theatre
by Gil Benbrook

Adam Guinn is a local performer and stay at home dad who studied Musical Theatre at the University of Northern Colorado. He's a passionate guy, and  you see that passion and love he has for both his young daughter and for performing on stage. Adam first performed with Zao Theatre as The Beast in their production of Beauty and the Beast and is now playing Horton the Elephant in their production of Seussical, which opens on Friday and runs through March 7.

Guinn's singing voice is strong, rich and clear and his portrayal of the Beast in Beauty and the Beast was incredibly moving. He co-starred with Rebecca Bryce, as Belle, and the two of them created characters you loved. In my review of that production I said "Adam Guinn is equally as good (as Bryce) as the Beast, letting us clearly understand how someone who feels he can't be loved due to the way he looks can snarl and swipe at someone who is trying to help him. The Beast changes throughout the show and Guinn does a good job of portraying how a petulant man-child can grow into someone who has feelings for those around him. His act one closer, 'If I Can't Love Her,' is sensational."

In Seussical, Guinn again plays a larger than life character but one who is much more sensitive than fierce. In between final rehearsals for the show, Adam sat down to answer some questions about Seussical and Zao Theatre.

Seussical is based on the books by Dr. Seuss, but for someone who hasn't read the books or seen the show what would you tell them it's about?

"There is the story of Horton who, literally hears a who on a speck of dust and decides he has to protect them even though it flies in the face of the firmly held beliefs of those around him. There is the concurrent story of Jo Jo ( (played wonderfully by Zacary Nelson) who explores his imagination with the guidance of ever mischievous The Cat in the Hat (played by the uber talented Ben Tietz). No story is complete without love and that is where our heroine Gertrude McFuzz (played by the talented and hysterical Gina Kim) comes in as Horton’s only ally who just wants him to notice her. "

In the musical you play Horton, the Elephant. What can you tell us about him?

"Horton is a dreamer, he is innocent, he is a thinker with a healthy imagination, he is steadfast, he is honest, he is naive but not dumb. Horton sees the world much like a child does. He is full of wonder and has no alternative motives, he just wants to do the next right thing. "

What kind of difficulties did you encounter in attempting to play an elephant?

"I think the challenge for me was to get beyond the literal view of Horton being an elephant. I chose to play Horton as a kind, gentle person who knows his true north and cares for everyone 'because after all, a person’s a person, no matter how small.' "

What songs or scenes in the show do you most identify with?

"I am particularly fond of 'Alone in the Universe' because as someone who has had an affinity for theatre, singing, etc. I have definitely found myself feeling isolated. In this song Horton finds another thinker in Jo Jo the Mayor’s son (played wonderfully by Zacary Nelson)and they form a bond. In real life I form the same bond with the thinkers and dreamers I have the good fortune of sharing the stage with."

What are some of the important themes or messages you've found in Seussical?

"I think that there are a few basic themes that are always present in the show. One huge aspect is the endless landscape  of imaginative thinking where truly anything is possible. Another is standing up for what you believe in even if you are the only one who believes it. Last and certainly not least is being true to oneself. "

While some may think this is a show geared toward children, due to it being based on the books of Dr. Suess, why would you say it's a universal show that appeals to everyone?

"Outside of the themes, that I think are definitely universal, you have high stakes as Horton literally holds the world and it’s inhabitants in his hand. You have the fear of the unknown from the citizens of the Jungle of Nool who are being told there is a whole other tiny planet out there. The humor is geared towards adults and children alike. The musical was written by Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty who brought us Ragtime, Once on this Island and Anastasia (to name a few) so the music is sensational. I truly believe there is something for everyone."

Adam Guinn and Rebecca Bryce in Zao Theatre's production of Disney's Beauty and the Beast
photo by Wade Moran
This isn't your first show at Zao as you just played the Beast in their production of Beauty and the Beast. What are some of the reasons you like working at Zao?

"I am glad you asked me this. I like working at Zao because I know that Mickey Bryce (the Director), CJ O’Hara (Music Director), Laura Christian Brown (the Choreographer) and Sharyn Sheffer (Administrative Director) all care as much about me as an actor on their stage as they do as a person off of it. All of the people involved from costumes, tech crew, orchestra, stage managers as well as fellow actors are great to work with and more important just wonderful and supportive people. WE HAVE A LIVE PIT ORCHESTRA!  I also think that Zao has a high level of talent professionalism and overall production quality. "

What do you hope audiences will take away from seeing Seussical at Zao?

"My hope for every show I am in is the audience leaves knowing that we had as much fun performing for them as they had watching it and that they can’t wait to see it again..."

CLICK HERE for more information on Seussical at Zao Theatre, which runs February 21-March 7

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