SEUSSICAL THE MUSICAL is based on the works of Dr. Seuss, the well known children’s author. When it opened on Broadway in 2000 it was not well received. The critics thought the show lacked cohesiveness and that there was just too much going on. SEUSSICAL has gone on to be one of the most performed shows in America.
I am not a huge fan of the Dr. Seuss books, thinking them rather silly and of very little educational merit and so I was not particularly looking forward to my evening at the theater. But the Pennington Players production of SEUSSICAL had me opening my mind to the ‘thinks’ I could think. One of which is: I think I may take another look at Dr. Seuss!
The audience was filled with young children, their parents and a sprinkling of striped hats. Director Laurie Gougher cleverly and wisely has chosen to do a pre-show with General Genghis Kahn Schmitz, portrayed by William Mercado who delightfully combines SEUSSICAL silly and sternness with ease, reading to the audience from Dr. Seuss and then proceeding to instruct attendees in theater etiquette. Very effective, as the children were extremely well behaved during the show.
The story line centers around three main characters, Horton the elephant, played by Steven Anzuini, who on a speck of dust discovers the ‘Who’s’ including JoJo, played by Simon Hamilton, who is to be commended for the huge amount of lines he had to memorize and for his delivery of those lines as well. A young boy with a big imagination who thinks too many thinks and The Cat in The Hat himself, a stand out performance by Kyrus, a multi-talented actor and singer who spurs on JoJo’s imagination and gets him into trouble.
Horton has the double challenge of protecting the ‘Who’s’ from disbelievers while guarding the irresponsible Mayzie La Bird’s egg. Hillary Goldman turns in a fine performance as Mayzie with good vocals, good acting skills and some really great dancing. Horton emerges triumphant even though the values of friendship, family, community and loyalty are tested because everyone matters – no matter how small.
This cast, however, is not full of small performers, it is, in fact, full of great performers and performances, from Steven Anzuini’s quiet, steady Horton to Kim Cupo’s sweet and loyal Gertrude Mcfuzz; the Wickersham’s well-executed antics, the energetic dancers and right down to Elizabeth Ferrara’s Cindy Loo Who and the other little Who, Charolotte Gougher.
Vocal stand outs: Mrs. Mayer, Lisa Reifschneider (lovely voice). General Genghis Kahn Schmitz – William Mercado, the Grinch, Rob Gougher, Gertrude McFuzz, Kim Cupo (especially in her solo) and Aimee Robidoux as the Sour Kangaroo with that amazing powerhouse bluesy voice, and Anna Kralik as young kangaroo with her cute little bluesy voice…good job.
The choreography is clever, original, modern and very well done… it is just wonderful in Mayzie’s solo numbers. I looked at some clips of the Broadway version of Amazing Mayzie and in my humble opinion Kristina Tuxhorn’s is superior. Kudos to Kristina as well as her dance captain Heather Santos and her assistant Dominick Sannelli. The dancers in their ‘catsuits’ were all wonderful – their gymnastics delightful. Mollie: in your tiger catsuit with the red armbands you were a real standout. Ditto to Jahmir “J” Scott in the Children’s Ensemble. “It’s Possible” with those wonderful puppets by John Maurer was a real delight to watch.
The orchestra at Kelsey is cleverly played at balcony level, stage right. Whoever decided this, it is pure genius, with the orchestra placed out of the immediate line of vision, the audience is able to connect directly to the performance without any distraction. Thank you for taking that side car seat, orchestra members. You were all very enjoyable to hear and played with good skill – never overpowering the singers.
The costumes by Kathy Slothower were a wonderful interpretation – colorful, inventive and well executed without being silly. I especially liked the ‘Who’s’ as an ensemble, my favorites being the two little girl ‘Who’s’ , Mayzie and The Bird Girls as well as Gertrude McFuzz.
A really nice touch is that if you are attending an opening night, refreshments are served after the show, courtesy of the performing company members, Kelsey Theatre and hosted by one of Kelsey’s other performing companies. A nice celebration for all those involved.
The seats at Kelsey are plush and comfy, stadium style so there is not a bad seat in the house…So come fill them up and enjoy this magical extravaganza and you just might think some ‘thinks’ too!
SEUSSICAL THE MUSICAL
Music by Stephen Flaherty
Lyrics by Lynne Ahrens
Book by Flaherty/Ahrens
Directed by Laurie Gougher
September 24 – October 3, 2010
The Kelsey Theatre at MCCC
1200 Old Trenton Road
West Windsor, NJ