Seussical: The Musical - A gem that is Seussational!
- Written by Iain Paterson
Seussical The Musical
Musical Theatre Productions
Produced By Claire Porter Martin
Directed and choreographed by Cameron Carver
Palace Theatre, 710 Dundas Street
November 29-December 9
Note: 7 p.m. evening times, 1 p.m. Matinees on Dec. 2, 8, 9
Thursday, November 29 - 7:00 PM (Preview)
Running Time: 90 minutes
Tickets: 432-1029, www.palacetheatre.ca (click 'Current Season', then 'Get Tickets')
To linger within the confines of a city or a jungle for example can be restricting and consequently somewhat debilitating. When asked, however, to stay within the limits of one’s imagination there is usually no other place where one is free to explore an infinite number of promising possibilities. By-products of this cerebral landscape often give shape and form to beauty, creativity and fantasy. Such is the case with Seussical - The Musical. Composer Stephen Flaherty (Ragtime/Once on This Island) and lyricist Lynn Ahrens have used several of the Dr. Seuss stories and have distilled a manageable plotline punctuated by a tuneful and a surprisingly memorable score. Cue deftly and brilliantly choreographed dance routines, cool and variegated costuming and innovative sets and what takes place for the next two hours is nothing short of pure magic and spectacle, Seussian style.
Musical Theatre Productions has a mega-hit on its hands and will more than satisfy the meanest of Grinches among us.
As narrator and raconteur, Seuss’ Cat In The Hat starts the ball of string rolling by introducing Horton the elephant, another recognizable character in the Seuss storybook. As most respectable elephants do, Horton finds himself in the jungle of Nool where he is about to experience a journey of personal and existential growth. His fate is inextricably linked to the Whos whose very existence is in his hands (literally). Horton is determined to guard and save the speck of dust resting ever so precariously on a piece of clover. Fate intervenes once again and Horton meets up with Jojo, the son of the mayor of Whoville. Both Horton andJojo become soul-mates, recognizing each other’s aloneness in the universe. Each character experiences his unique but similar adventures, confronting a motley crew of other familiar Seuss personae: Gertrude McFuzz,Mayzie La Bird, General Genghis Kahn Schmitz, Sour Kangaroo et al. Having survived life’s bumps and brambles, Jojo is reunited with his estranged family and Horton is about to try out his parental skills as he finds himself with a newly hatched Elephant-Bird. Why bird and not calf you may ask? You’ve got to visit the fantastical Seussian universe for yourself in order to find the answer.
Director/Choreographer Cameron Carver has assembled a gifted cast that bursts with talent, energy and strong characterization. There is not one weak link anywhere.
Danny Ostropolec is perfectly cast as Horton. This young actor has it all going on: stage presence, singing and acting ability to die for. A solid understanding of his character shone forth in the delivery of his lines and musical numbers. This elephant is a real crooner.
Rebecca McCauley as Gertrude McFuzz turned in a first-class performance demonstrating a maturity and natural ability for musical theatre beyond her years. With this much confidence and talent, what you hear and see before you is pure delight, leaving one with a little bit of envy too.
The Seussical show stealer is Jojo played by grade seven student Gabriel Sizeland. There is a most promising future ahead for him should he wish to continue in the theatre. His performance was a disciplined, genuine and innocent one. Singing “Alone In The Universe” with Horton was a poignant moment in the first act that rightly deserved the bravos and reaction it received from the audience. His acting, vocal and dancing skills throughout were exceptional for such a young man.
Andrew Varkaris’ Cat In The Hat was mischievous enough, being physically dexterous and highly engaging. Strong antics, pleasant singing and feline playfulness made for a totally believable character.
This show delivers snappy toe-tapping choreography handled seamlessly by well- rehearsed and well-oiled dancers who are also very capable of belting out chorus numbers with lots of attitude. Musical Director Andrew Rethazzi and his pit musicians provided wonderful musical colour and texture while supporting both ensemble and individual cast members.
Theatrical intensity was evident from beginning to end, captured through deliberately exposed lighting, stationary and moving sets which enhanced the fast and furious non-stop professional quality entertainment being performed on the stage.
There is more to this gem of a show than just seductive optics and metered versification. Issues that involve moral and ethical choices are not far from the surface in this musical. Theodor Seuss Geisel’s (Dr.Seuss) social commentary and philosophy underpin what appears to be unsophisticated linguistic flummery. Au Contraire. Various themes such as friendship, personal responsibility, moral courage provide these cautionary tales with another level of understanding that resonates more clearly with the more mature reader of his stories. In the Seuss literary canon there is something for everyone.
Last night’s show was greeted with wild applause and a standing ovation. In part due to the theatrical concept itself and in part due to a hugely talented cast, crew and creative team. Seussical - The Musical is simply SEUSSATIONAL! I even saw the Grinch at the show. Really!
Iain Paterson is a Musical Theatre Performer and founder of The Broadway Singers.
Photos by Ross Davidson