Theological musings on Seussical the Musical

“Having no hope and without God in the world…
(Eph 2:12 ESV)
 

Around this time last year I offered to you my theological musings related to my character analysis of Daddy Warbucks for the Cherokee Community Theatre Production of “Annie.”  As today is opening day for CCT’s production of “Seussical: The Musical,” allow me to continue the tradition.

First, some background.  Seussical is a musical story that blends elements of over 15 different Dr. Seuss stories into one great, exciting, thrill ride of a show.  Inviting the audience to “follow their hunches” we journey with JoJo as his “thinks take him places where no one has been.”  JoJo meets Horton (who hears a who and hatches an egg), gets sent off to fight in the great Butter Battle, and, most importantly, learns the irrepressible power of thinking and dreaming.

In the show, I play the Mayor of Whoville.  Who, as you may already know, is a tiny planet that floats through the air.  Horton hears the Whos calling for help, and saves them, placing their speck of a planet safe on a clover.  Horton vows to save Who, to watch over and protect them.  But His vow is quickly challenged.  No one else in the Jungle of Nool can hear the Whos, so they ridicule Horton for “hearing Whos who are not.”  They arrest Horton, put him on trial, and rule that he is insane, and that the clover should be boiled in “Beezlenut Oil.”

For Horton’s part, there is much to commend.  He makes a promise to save the Whos, and nothing will keep him from fulfilling that vow (“I meant what I said and I said what I meant: an Elephants faithful one hundred percent”).  He travels far and wide, risks life and limb, to save the helpless Whos.  He sees value in every person, even those he cannot see (“a person’s a person no matter how small”).

Still, to be a Who must be a terrifying thing.  Imagine knowing that you live on a tiny planet, floating randomly through the sky, at the whim of every gust and breeze.  At any given moment they could crash or be drowned, hitting the ground (“oh my”).  When the clover on which their planet rests gets dropped, “things smash and tore, their town is a mess, and their planet is at war.”  We first meet the Whos as they cry out for help, never knowing if their pleas will be heard, never knowing if they’ll ever be saved.  Until Horton hears them, their situation is hopeless, and even then, it is not sure.  The clover is stolen from Horton, lost in a sea of clovers, and even when found, they are threatened once again with annihilation.  Is it any wonder then, that their philosophy is, “things could get worse”?

Imagine going through life like that.  In fact, according to Ephesians, that is how we all once lived.  At one time we were “separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world” (Eph 2:12).  When I think of what it would mean to be without God and have no hope in the world, I think the Whos are a vivid example.  I read somewhere that studies of Paul’s time show us that a “great cloud of hopelessness covered the ancient world.  Philosophies were empty; traditions were disappearing; religions were powerless to help men face either life or death.  People longed to break through to heaven and get some message of hope from the other side, but there was none.”  They were, as Paul said, “without God.”  The Gentiles of Paul’s day had plenty of God’s, but in their futility of thinking, they had “exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things” (Rom 1:23).  They had plenty of God’s, but they did not have knowledge of the one true God.

And so they were without hope.  All they had was what they could see in this life.  There was no hope for a greater justice to prevail, for hope for a life beyond this mortal existence.  That is the context of Paul’s comments on the resurrection in 1 Thess. 4 when he writes, “But we do not want you to uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do, who have no hope.”

Isn’t it wonderful to know, then, that we can hope and trust in our faithful God?  We do not have to give a great “yopp” to break through to the heavens and be heard, for He has come to be with us, to bear our burdens – He hears our cry.  We do not have to worry that once He has saved us, God might lose us later.  Our salvation is sure, for it is from God.  He does not sleep or slumber (Psalm 121), and nothing can pluck us from the hand of our Savior (John 10:27-30).

If you are in the Cherokee area this weekend, make it a plan to come and see Seussical.  The cast is wonderfully talented, the orchestra is fantastic, and the lighting will take your breath away.  And I hope and pray that the message will encourage you to trust and rely on the salvation found in Christ Jesus our Lord. 

The show opens at 7:30 Wednesday through Saturday (the 22 through the 25) with matinee shows at 2:00 on Saturday and Sunday (the 25 and 26).  You can visit http://cherokeect.org/ for ticket information.

SDG

The Redemption of Daddy Warbucks: aka, Annie the Musical

The most compelling characters in the stories we read are those who undergo great transformation through adversity.  Star Wars is ultimately the story of the fall and redemption of Anakin Skywalker.  Braveheart, Saving Private Ryan, Gladiator, each of these stories demonstrates how salvation/redemption comes at the cost of great sacrifice and overcoming adversity.  Every truly great story in some way contains God’s story.

God loves story.  I know that may sound ridiculous, but think about it.  The Scriptures tell the story of God’s love saving and redeeming His people.  Jesus often told the message of His gospel through parable, a short story illustrating a kingdom truth.  Jesus could have just said, “the Kingdom of heaven is worth more than anything else in the world.”  Instead, we hear, “the kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up.  Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field” (Matt 13:44). 

I say this as a prolegomenon to my theory about Annie: The Musical, in which I am currently playing the role of Oliver “Daddy” Warbucks.  If you stop to really study the script, the person who undergoes the greatest transformation of character, the person who faces crises, redemption, and salvation is Warbucks.  Sure, the musical follows the exploits of cute little Annie as she brings optimism and joy to those who face sorrow and despair (the orphans and Hooverville).  Still, and I would say this even if I weren’t currently playing the part, Warbucks is the one whom Annie has come to save, and in this perspective, the musical is really a retelling of the gospel.

Consider this: Warbucks was born into poverty.  Both his parents died before he was ten.  From that time forward, he committed his life to making himself rich.  To quote Warbucks, “making money was all I ever cared about.  And I was ruthless to the people I had to climb over to get to the top.  Because I’ve always believed one thing, you don’t have to be nice to the people you meet on the way up, if you’re not coming back down again” (the audience always gasps at that).

As we discover in the show, Warbucks, in spite of his riches and success, is missing something.  Maybe he heard a great sermon by some Presbyterian minister there in NYC, but Warbucks knows his heart is missing something.  He knows his riches, his success, his fame, cannot find him the happiness, the satisfaction  his soul longs for.  “It doesn’t matter how many Rembrandts or Duesenbergs you’ve got.  If you’re all alone, if you’ve got no one to share your life with, you might as well be broke and back in Hell’s kitchen.”  Annie (the “Christ” figure of the play) comes into Warbucks’ life and shows him what true happiness is and where it may be found; in loving and being love by another.

Is this not the message of the Gospel?  We are born into sin, deprived of the blessing and peace of a loving relationship with God.  Throughout our lives we are in a restless attempt to satisfy the deepest longings of our heart and soul, only to find the transitory joys of this life empty and meaningless.  We surround ourselves with success and security, but continue to long for more.  Then the Holy Spirit comes to us, shows us the emptiness of our hearts, and leads us to the saving grace of God in Jesus Christ.  Jesus pays the price for our sins, and covers us with His righteousness and peace, so that we may be justified and at peace with God and with ourselves.  When we find this love in Christ, nothing else seems to matter.  We find contentment in the presence of Christ so that we can sing along with Warbucks, “And if tomorrow I’m an apple seller too, I don’t need anything but you!”

SDG