When you’re in the jungle of Nool or the planet of Who, you will find that anything can happen to you.
On June 3, the Claire Trevor School of the Arts opened Stephen Flaherty and Lynn Ahrens’ ‘Seussical,’ which was directed by Myrona Delaney and performed at the Claire Trevor Theatre.
Theodor Seuss Geisel is the man behind ‘Dr. Seuss.’ Every person, young and old, has probably read at least one Dr. Seuss book in their childhood. We’ve all heard of ‘Cat in the Hat’ and ‘Green Eggs and Ham,’ but not too many know of ‘Sneetches Are Sneetches’ and ‘The Butter Battle Book,’ which are some of Geisel’s later books where his stories take a different turn. In his later books, Geisel used clever rhymes of iambic pentameter and told adventurous children’s stories to express his opinions and criticize issues as controversial as war and power.
‘Seussical’ begins with ‘The Cat in the Hat,’ (Katherine McLaughlin), who takes a little boy (Quintan Craig) and his sister Cindy (Emma DeLaney) into the microscopic planet of Who located in a clover, where they become JoJo and Cindy Lou Who. The audience is thrown into Seuss’ world with them where they will discover that anything can happen.
One of the first musical numbers is ‘Oh the Thinks You Can Think,’ where the audience gets the first glimpse of the entire cast in song and dance. Both song and dance were phenomenal throughout the musical, which conveyed quite successfully that on the surface, ‘Seussical’ is still fit for children.
Under the surface, of course, there are lessons to be learned. JoJo is sent to the military after his parents get upset with him for the ‘thinks’ in his head.
Running parallel to the story of in the planet of Who is the story that takes place in the jungle of Nool.
An elephant named Horton (Zack Oldham) is the only one who hears the tiny Whos calling for help. And while he is being called a lunatic by his fellow jungle inhabitants, he is adamant that he will save them because, as his chorus repeats, ‘a person’s a person, no matter how small.’
Oldham gives a stunning performance as Horton, the elephant. Not only is his singing and acting on cue, but he does an amazing job portraying the sensitive and big-hearted Horton.
While Horton is busy trying to save the planet of Who, Gertrude McFuzz (Sharon Reitkerk), a bird with one tail who is Horton’s neighbor, friend and secret admirer, is obsessed with trying to change herself in order to get Horton to notice her.
Reitkerk also gives a wonderful performance, as she plays the timid and cute little bird who has the audience laughing at her character’s awkwardness.
Lastly, the audience can’t forget McLaughlin’s performance as the Cat in the Hat who helps to narrate the story. Her character provides comic relief at the most appropriate, and sometimes even inappropriate, tense moments. No matter what the circumstances, the audience loved her.
Along with the actors, one cannot forget the costumes or the set. The costumes were colorful and amazingly creative, as they brought to life the animals from the jungle of Nool. Furthermore, the set was just as innovative and colorful in bringing to life the world of Seuss. You might not be sure what the world of Seuss looks like yourself, but the set of ‘Seussical’ is probably exactly, or at least vaguely, what you would have imagined.
Everything about this musical was phenomenal and superb. If anything, all that was lacking on opening night was refinement. Looking carefully, there were some slight slips throughout the musical. For example, while adjusting one of the platforms, one cast member was almost hit as another was pushing too hard from behind. In another instance, after getting on a stool-like prop, one cast member had trouble getting her balance to do her dance steps, teetering slightly, as the audience waited in fear to see if she would fall.
Regardless, it is without a doubt that ‘Seussical’ is a delightfully funny musical.
Not only can children enjoy and appreciate the performance, but adults can appreciate it too. Especially in the changing social and political climate of our society, ‘Seussical’ gives us simple yet valuable lessons, such as loving ourselves and helping others, that we learned as a child. More importantly, it reminds us to know right from wrong and to really think about our environment in a critical way.
‘Seussical’ will continue playing from June 9 to 11 with performances at 8 p.m. and an additional matinee performance on June 11 at 2 p.m.