note: entire contents copyright 2009 by Janine de Souza
SEUSSICAL, the new musical, by the Wheelock Family Theatre thinks outside the box and into your heart!
Anyone with young children has doubtless read and reread the vocal rhymes and zany illustrations of Theodor Geisel… or Dr. Seuss as he is famously known. Originally hailing from our own backyard, Springfield, Massachusetts, Seuss’ works, first published in 1937 have sold over an astounding 200 million copies worldwide. Not bad for a guy who due to sheer boredom dropped out of Oxford to tour Europe and lend his imaginative doodling and wordplay to children’s books. It’s a testament to following your dreams in the face of conventional wisdom. And herein lies the sublime subtext of Wheelock’s SEUSSICAL, which brings some of Seuss’ favorite characters to life, narrated by the mischievous master of ceremonies “The Cat in the Hat” (Andrew Babato).
The basic premise of SEUSSICAL combines two of Seuss’ books, "Horton Hears a Who" and "Horton Hatches an Egg." One day, Horton the Elephant (Kamau M. Hashim), hears a yelp for help from the Mayor of Whoville (Gary Thomas Ng). Though no one believes that this speck of dust exists, (especially Gamalia Pharms as Sour Kangaroo and her band of rogue roughnecks played by Brian Richard Robinson, Mark Linehan, and De’Lon Grant), Horton does everything in his power to help the Whos. In the meantime, this well-meaning pachyderm gets tricked into hatching lazy Mayzie LaBird’s (Angela Williams) egg. Jojo, another original dreamer and thinker in Whoville, is sent to a military school run by General Genghis Khan Schmitz (Peter A. Carey). Luckily, perseverance vindicates Horton and saves Whoville.
The most delightful thing about this production directed by Grace Napier were the imaginative costumes (Melissa Miller) and the faithful to book set design by James H. Williston. Eye-catching too were the chorus’ sleek fishnet fins, Gertrude McFuzz’s (Jennifer Beth Glick) tulle tail feather extensions, and the Whoville’s runway of fluorescent couture. I especially liked…okay, secretly coveted… Jojo’s bathtub, which doubled as a waterslide into his wild imagination.
Musical direction by Jonathan Goldberg was solid, especially in the opening number, “Oh, the Thinks You Can Think,” “Horton Hears A Who,” Jojo’s (Sirena Abalian) “Alone in the Universe,” and the final rousing curtain call of “Green Eggs & Ham.” The songs were a mixture of styles which lent themselves to the madcap mayhem of Theodor Geisel’s whimsical world.
If you don’t want the “same old” song and dance, then Wheelock’s SEUSSICAL will take you back, to a time when all things truly were possible.
SEUSSICAL runs from January 30-March 1.