Theatre Mirror Reviews - "Seussical, The Musical"

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide


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entire contents copyright 2003 by Tony Annicone

"Seussical, The Musical"

Reviewed by Tony Annicone

Cranston Community Theater's summer show is "Seussical, the Musical" which creates the witty, wild and whimsical world of Dr. Seuss. It reveals a world where anything's possible from an elephant in a tree, to a person too tiny to see, to a heroic child and dreams running wild. The show is a magical, musical world where helping a friend, never giving up and keeping a promise comes true. The show opened on Broadway on November 30, 2000 and ran for 198 performances. It is a re-imagining of Dr. Seuss, which weaves together many of his most famous stories and characters in unexpected ways. The Tony Award winning team of Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty ("Ragtime" & "Once on this Island") created the book and the score that includes pop, gospel, blues and R&B numbers. The storyline begins with the Cat in the Hat transforming a boy from the audience into JoJo of the Whos. When chaos erupts in the Jungle of Nool, it will take the Cat in the Hat, Horton the Elephant, Gertrude McFuzz and a gaggle of characters to bring harmony back to their world. Director Bert Silverberg and musical director Lila Kane bring this fantastic and amazing show to life with their multitalented 38 member cast of all ages with energetic choreography by Angelica Vessella which keeps the audience spellbound all night long.

Bert who has been teaching theatre at Community College of RI for the past 30 years, uses his expertise not only to direct this huge cast but to block them so the sound of their voices can be heard throughout the theatre by having sing in aisles (stairways) and on the two story set with many different sized doorways and entrances including a big red slide. He casts the best people in their roles creating the wonderful world of Dr. Seuss in this very theatre. Lila not only conducts her 7 member orchestra but plays the piano, too. She always does topnotch work and this show is no exception. The variety of songs is vast but she and her musicians including her 19 year old son on trombone, sell them to an appreciative crowd with the cast doing some wonderful harmonies in their group numbers. The dance numbers created by Angelica fit this crazy and fantastical world of make believe with such energy and power, it makes you want to join the cast in performing them. The set design by Patrick Lynch enhances the performance with his creativity and he, Matthew Calitri, and Laurea Payette Osborne designed the enormous and colorful costumes in the show. Professional magical thinker Bruce Kalver handles numerous magic tricks and special effects with ease, making the performers look like they are the truly magicians themselves. (Loved the cane appearing out of a hat trick.) Kudos to Bert and everyone who make this a show to be very proud of.

Leading this large and talented cast is Elizabeth Gotauco as the Cat in the Hat. A recent graduate of URI, she commands the stage with her excellent characterization and beautiful singing voice. Elizabeth runs through the audience interviewing people as well as all around the set and theatre, making entrances everywhere. This human dynamo leads the cast in many numbers including the opening "Oh, The Thinks You Can Think" which is a big dance number and tells the characters in the show to be imaginative and think for themselves and "How Lucky You Are" which is a vaudeville type song which she sings with a hat and cane and tells the audience to be glad with everything they have in their lives. Elizabeth is dynamite in this role and this fall she will be a costume intern at Trinity. Brava. Colin Whitney is the 10 year old boy who plays JoJo and he is amazing, too. He has a strong voice and wonderful natural acting ability in this role. Some of Colin's songs include "It's Possible" which starts off as a solo with him in his bathtub and builds into a chorus number in a swimming pool, "Alone in the Universe" which is a pretty ballad sung with Horton, the elephant and "Havin' a Hunch" which is a rousing number with the Cat and the entire company on how JoJo can get back home again. Although Colin is young, he has a strong stage presence which will take him far in show business. The third leading player in this show is the multitalented Patrick Lynch who plays Horton. He not only acts, sings and dances but designed the set and costumes for the show, too. Patrick has a warm and winning acting talent which makes immediately like Horton and agree with his philosophy on life "A person is a person, no matter how small". He has a beautiful tenor voice which he displays in many songs in the show including "Horton Hears a Who", "Alone in the Universe" and "How Lucky You Are" reprise with Mayzie and the Cat. Horton shows how to be a true friend even after he is captured by hunters and put in a circus while he sits in a tree trying to hatch Mayzie's egg.

Bonnie Griffin plays Gertrude McFuzz, a bird who is in love with Horton. She only has one tail feather but with the help of a Doctor played by the Cat, she takes some pills to make her tail grow and grow and grow. Bonnie does a great job as this insecure bird who finally helps Horton by being herself again. Some of her songs include "The One Feather Tail of Miss Gertrude McFuzz", "Notice Me Horton" and "All For You" where she sings about everything she has done is all for the love of Horton. Her backup singers, Eve-Marie Fisher, Jenette DelMonaco and Ali Angelone are called Bird Girls in this show and are dynamite singers and dancers who remind you of the Andrew Sisters or the Supremes. They are clad in different color costumes including yellow, orange and red which make them stand out in the group scenes. Another strong vocalist includes Bethany Giammarco as Mayzie LaBird, who leaves her egg to spend time in Palm Beach and one of her songs is the Latin number, "Amazing Mayzie" where she does a samba with the Bird Girls. Dale Magnuson as Sour Kangaroo knocks your socks off with her fabulous belting gospel voice which soars off the charts in "Biggest Blame Fool", "Chasing the Whos" and "The People Versus Horton the Elephant". Lon Cerel and JoAnn Maccarone as the Mayor of Whoville and Mrs. Mayor are hoots as parents who at times are not too bright, lead their Whos in "Here on Who" where they live in a speck of clover, "Chasing the Whos", The Whos Christmas Pageant" and the most gorgeous and touching ballad in this show called "Solla Sollew". Keith Maia as General Genghis Kahn Schmitz who leads an unnecessary war and J. Matthew Calitri as the Grinch who hates Christmas, play these two large than life characters. A big round of applause for the other cast members who have excellent voices and dancing abilities beyond their years. ( One of these young people include Tyler Perry who is entering 9th Grade and its hard to believe how tall he's gotten in the 2 years since I directed him in "Lost in Yonkers".) Have a wonderful run in this fantastic show. So for a trip back to the land of your childhood in a show for all ages, be sure to catch "Seussical, the Musical".

"Seussical, The Musical" (13 - 15 August)
CCRI, 400 East Avenue, WARWICK R I
1 (401) 825-2219

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide