Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Seussical the Musical

From left, the mischievous Cat in the hat (F. James Raasch), Gertrude McFuzz (Christie Paz),
Mayzie LaBird (Rachael Sherman-Shockley), accompanied by her Bird Girls (Sarah Green,
Cooper Johnson and Michele Guerrieri), are featured in the DMTC production of
“Seussical, the Musical,” running Sept. 11 through Oct. 4.
Wayne Tilcock/Enterprise photo
“Seussical, the Musical,” by Stephen Flaherty and Lynn Ahrens is a show certain to delight children...and it certainly did at the opening matinee at Davis Musical Theater Company.    But there is also enough grown up humor that adults will enjoy it as well.

Filled with familiar Seuss characters like the Whos in Whoville, the Sour Kangaroo, Mayzie LaBird and her flock of feathery friends, Sneeches and other animals from the Jungle of Nool, the show kept every child I watched spellbound, even the ones who looked to be 3 or 4 years old.

This enchanting production, directed and choreographed by Ron Cisneros with wildly colorful costumes by Jean Henderson and wonderful Seuss-ian set pieces by Steve Isaacson is the sort of show DMTC does best, showcasing both the talented adult cast, and also strong performances by members of the Young People’s Company.  And you can’t beat 30 people on stage dancing to the tune of the 20-piece under-stage orchestra.

While the show is filled with catchy tunes, the book itself is weak and it is thanks to a talented cast that it comes across as well as it does.

Heading the show is F. James Raasch as the Cat in the Hat, who directs the action and gets in a little mischief along the way.  Raasch, who has a beautiful voice, had a great time in the role and stuck in his own ad libs now and then, which were usually very funny, even the one aimed at this critic.

But the heart of this production is DMTC newcomer Nephi Speer as Horton the Elephant.  Speer imbued his character with such gentleness and genuine heart that everybody loved him.  And costumer Henderson had the good sense not to give him some sort of elephantine head gear.  He was dressed simply in grey and his “elephantness” came from his performance.

The Cat’s buddy is The Boy/Jojo, who gets into trouble for thinking.  Jenna Karoly came into the show late, but you’d never know it to watch her performance.  She’s as solid as can be and you could not ask for better.  She and Speer have a lovely duet, “Alone in the Universe,” as each realizes that together they aren’t really alone.

You called my name and you set me free
One small voice in the universe
One true friend in the universe
Who believes in me

While the show has a very thin plot, what plot it does have centers around Horton, first in his discovery of the Whos, a teeny community which lives on a speck of dust, whom Horton promises to protect, and the silly bird Mayzie (Rachael Sherman-Shockley) who, already tired of mothering, entrusts her egg to Horton “just for the afternoon.”  A year later, Horton is still caring for the egg because “an elephant’s faithful 100%.”

The Whos are led the Mayor (Adam Sartain) and his wife (Dannette Vassar).  When JoJo has morphed into a Who, he is the son of the Mayor, who doesn’t know what to do with a child who thinks, so he’s sent off to military school under the watchful eye of Gen. Genghis Kahn Schmitz (Scott Daugherty). Together the three sing the fun patter song, 'The Military.”

Christie Paz is Gertrude McFuzz, the one-feathered bird in love with Horton.  Though Paz throws a spectacular tantrum and can make herself heard when she is angry, she had some problems with projection throughout much of the performance.

Of particular note are 6 year old Gillian Cubbage as Thing 1 and Miller Traum as Thing 2.  Both displayed the stage discipline of older actors and both were absolutely adorable.  Cubbage is particularly impressive with her one-handed cartwheels across the stage.

Steve Isaacson’s set pieces are straight out of Dr. Seuss illustrations and add a touch of authenticity to the look, while his lighting design, particularly in the black light under sea scene with glowing fish was fun.

This is a good family show, but if you don’t have kids or grandkids, come by yourself and enjoy, perhaps with a kangaroo sour, which may be purchased at the lobby bar and consumed in the theater.   

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