When I was a little boy, graduating from kindergarten to the first grade, I was finally given library privileges at the elementary school and the colorful and rhyming world of Dr. Seuss.

His books were special and in high demand, and had a cubby shelf all their own. Only first- through third-graders could check them out, but with no renewals.

“One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish” was my favorite book because I could actually read it. To my child’s mind, it all made perfect sense: The words and sentences were simple and entertaining; the cartoon-like pictures helped.

It was the silly storylines, the unreal characters, and most importantly the life lessons that prompted me to read any Dr. Seuss book in the library. And when I finished reading, I felt like I had learned something more important than how to count fish and eat green eggs and ham.

I got that same feeling this past Saturday afternoon at Flat Rock Playhouse Downtown's theater in Hendersonville after seeing “Seussical The Musical,” an amalgamation of the good doctor’s characters and stories both old and not so old. For about an hour and a half, the theater was filled with the young and the young at heart who enjoyed the musical antics of “The Cat In The Hat,” Horton the Elephant, the Whos in Whoville, Thing One and Thing Two, and a host of other memorable beings in a world more than just slightly off kilter.

As the first stage production for the Playhouse’s 2018-19 season, this is a Studio 52 show, part of the “Family Series,” which is more commonly known as children or youth theater. (The first “Mainstage” production for big boys and girls will be “Clue: The Musical,” slated for May 5-June 9.) 

The multitude of actors were mostly talented children, teenagers and young adults, but a few seasoned adults found their way into this production, most notably veteran Vagabond Scott Treadway, who is the show’s narrator as the Cat in the Hat.

As always, the versatile and prolific Treadway embraced this character, fully becoming that caring but dismissive feline in the extra-tall red-and-white top hat. As usual, he was not the focus of the show but rather the impetus to get things started — things that evolve into chaos before finding a simple and heartwarming resolution. Over the years, the Treadway has taken on countless roles on the stages at Flat Rock Playhouse — some serious and well played — but he has a knack for the quirkie, such as the reclusive candymaker in “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.”

Undoubtedly, the star of the show is Neel Patrick Edwards, a young man from Duncan, South Carolina, who plays Horton the Elephant. In every way, Edwards is a stage performer of talent and daring.

In this show, he is a gray elephant: humble and sweet, loyal and determined, misunderstood and abused, innocent but learning. He and only he with this keen sense of hearing can hear the microscopic citizens of Whoville, a city of human-like beings on a fleck of dust on a mutated clover.

Most everyone in the crazy world of Dr. Seuss thinks Horton is insane, but he knows what he knows, and he’ll do anything to save the Whos from being boiled in oil, including sitting on a giant purple egg until it hatches. This elephantine role calls for an actor of some heft, and Edwards does not shy away from required moral sensitivity and physical largeness required for success.

With a most beautiful singing voice and never-faltering innocence, Edwards gives a performance that any actor — no matter the age — can be proud of. He was last seen by this reviewer in Flat Rock’s “The Little Mermaid,” where he played the maniacal crab-chopping chef. We certainly hope to see this brave and talented young man in more roles.

“Seussical the Musical” is both plot-driven and character-driven, elements needed for those of us with short attention spans. We never forget that at the heart of the story is Horton and his quest to save the Whos, although along the way several very entertaining short side trips are taken.

But fueling the plot is a host of vivid characters who make the journey worthwhile. Gertrude McFuzz, a lovesick bird with only one tail feather, is played by Kaia Pelz, a young woman on the rise in local stage productions. A.J. Hernandez plays JoJo, the little boy who both starts and finishes the show with the Cat.

Mayzie La Bird (as in lazy and self-centered but beautiful bird) is played by Calintha McClintic, who brings maturity, vocal wowness, and just a wee bit of sexiness to the show.

Lesser characters but standout performers included Sour Kangaroo played by Lily Mercado and her incredible deep-throated singing, and the Wickersham Brothers, a gang of bad-boy monkeys who brought down the house with their dark glasses and hip hop moves.

Without reservation, the large ensemble, the birds and the citizens of Whoville were all excellent in their song and dance routines — with not a dud in the bunch.

Top hats off to Director Dave Hart for giving his experience and wisdom to the up-and-coming actors and to the theater-lovers of the region. Not only did he create a show that exposes young people to the joys and creativity of stage performance, he presented colorful and valuable life lessons on parenting, conflicting responsibilities, prejudice, sharing, greed, diversity, inclusion, social responsibility and acceptance. He and Flat Rock Playhouse do what is needed to insure live performances will continue for many years to come.

As a play, “Seussical the Musical” debuted on Broadway in 2000 and has been loved by millions ever since, despite not ever winning any major awards. In 2001, it was nominated for a Tony Award for Best Actor in a Musical; and it was nominated for Drama Desk Awards for Outstanding Actor, Outstanding Featured Actress, and Outstanding Music — but none was won.

As an Off-Broadway show in 2008, it was nominated for the Lucille Lortel Awards for Outstanding Revival, Outstanding Choreography, Outstanding Costume Design and Outstanding Revival of a Musical, but again none was won.

So what! Tell that to the little and big kids who have loved show in professional tours and local productions, and all you’ll get is an eyeroll.