Thursday, October 03, 2002

Seussical, the Musical

Every one of our children liked Seuss books a lot
Then I heard of a musical--This would be hot!
Horton, the Grinch, silly Mayzie, the Cat
The Community Center was where it was at.

(apologies to Dr. Seuss and grammar buffs everywhere!)

Seussical the Musical, the Tony award nominee by Lynn Ahrens, Stephen Flaherty and Eric Idle,  is one of those shows that you just wanna like.  It has the irrepressible Cathy Rigby in the title role, for starters.  It is running cute TV promos.  It has a high-energy cast, outstanding technical effects, and it's all a loving tribute to one of the most beloved of children's authors.

What's not to like?

Why did I come away with reservations?

I expected to find a lot more children in the audience.  There were children, but they didn't seem to be excited.  Many looked sleepy.  At intermission, I asked the little girl sitting next to me how she liked the show and she replied "It's all right." 

"It's all right" seems to describe the show to a T.  It's neither a children's show, nor an adult show, though it has elements of both.  There isn't enough "character appeal" and it may be too wordy for younger children to be enthusiastic about, though there is enough activity to hold their attention.

Still there is much to enjoy in this traveling production.  Starting with some 32 different musical numbers, in varying musical styles ("Cats" meets "The Lion King"), none of which is particularly memorable, with the exception of the opening "Oh the Thinks You Can Think."

Some of the special effects are pretty spectacular--lighting designer Howell Binkley gets star billing for this one, as does "director of flying," Paul Rubin.  A bathroom scene, which morphs into McElligot's Pool, is simply outstanding and will take your breath away.

Likewise the costumes of David Woolard perfectly capture the essence of Dr. Seuss, especially at the Circus McGurkus.  (One bird girl wears an amazing feathered jacket that was quite an eye-catcher.) 

Rigby, as The Cat in the Hat, is darling.  She has sparkle to burn and her interactions with the audience were wonderful, going into the house to interview children, conduct an auction, or spray the crowd with silly string.  She's at her best, however, in the flying stunts which are nothing short of spectacular, thanks to Zex Flying Illusions.  It helps to have a gymnast in this role and Rigby pulls out all the stops.

Richard Miron, as JoJo (he alternates with Drake English) was the perfect young boy to be both entertained by the story, and become a part of it as the son of the mayor of Whoville (Don Stitt) and his wife (Amy Griffin).

"The story didn't interfere with the plot," as there was no real plot per se, but the evening wove together several familiar Seuss stories, which blended quite well.  Mostly it centered around the noble Horton, the elephant (an earnest and steadfast portrayal by Eric Leviton), first in his discovery of the microscopic Whos on their dust-speck planet and his quest to save them, and then in his protection of the egg left in his care by the lazy Mayzie LaBird (Gaelen Gilliland).  Horton, the heart of the show,  is aided in his endeavors by the lovelorn Gertrude McFuzz (Garrett Long), who wants a spectacular tail--and gets it.

Natasha Yvette Williams was outstanding as the Sour Kangaroo (with an ingenious costume for her young offspring), though her character didn't add much to the story line and her musical numbers were quite a departure from the rest. 

Other familiar and beloved Seuss characters also make appearances such as the Grinch (Richard Rowan), Yertle the Tertle (Brian Mathis).

There's no denying that this is an entertaining evening of theatre, with moments of glitz and moments of charm.  But the whole is lacking a certain "something."    Several people around us  left at intermission, and the Sacramento audience, which generally leaps to its feet at the curtain call of just about anything, sat and politely clapped through all the bows until Ms. Rigby came on at the very end.  Everyone who stayed to the end had enjoyed the show--they just weren't wildly enthusiastic about it.

Stars:  3

Performances run through October 14 at  8 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, at 2 p.m. on Thursdays, Saturdays and Sunday and at 7:30 p.m. on Sunday, October 6

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