Seussical the Musical integrates a number of Dr Seuss’s immortal characters and tales into an uplifting and cohesive whole. While the central story is that of Horton the elephant, who “hears a who”, other stories like The Cat in the Hat, Gertrude McFuzz, and even Green Eggs and Ham all find their place within the musical’s broader arc.
With songs by the Tony, Olivier and Grammy award-winning songwriting team Ahrens and Flaherty, the show has rightly become a classic in the years since it’s premiere in 2000, for professional and amateur companies alike. There’s simply too much to like in it. NextStop Theatre Company’s annual holiday family production is a wonderful undertaking which brings together kids from the local community with a few professional performers, and a professional production team, to stage a show. Suessical the Musical is a perfect choice for this year’s show, under the careful direction of Jennifer Lambert.
…the whole company responds with extraordinary discipline and commitment.
There is, of course, a powerful message in Seussical the Musical’s catchcry that “a person’s a person, no matter how small.” It takes on special significance, however, in this production as a host of marvelous, and marvelously talented young performers bring the show to life, alongside just a few of their more experienced colleagues. While the youngest listed performer is Miles Hoffman (playing the young kangaroo) at two and a half years old, he is already an old pro, starring in his his second production. He’s right on cue every time, and already a crowd favorite. While I suspect our young ‘elephant bird,’ hatched in the final scene, beats him to the line for the youngest on stage, the show is a welcome reminder that ‘an actor’s an actor, no matter how young.’
The opening number immediately highlights Kristina Martin’s vibrant costume design, as the whole company enters, creating and conjuring worlds, in “Oh, the Thinks You Can Think.” Co-Choreographer Katie McManus has done a wonderful job with her large cast, and the whole company responds with extraordinary discipline and commitment.
In the coming scenes, we will come to know the individual groups of the company. There are the vulnerable, but endearing Whos, the suitably wild and colorful Jungle Creatures, who manage the upsetting change to Circus Animals sensitively. The mischievous Wickersham Brothers sing and monkey their way around the stage deftly, while the Bird Girl quartet sing with clarity and strength throughout. Ben Cherington and Erik Peton make a good pair as The Cat in the Hat, and Jojo, respectively, both doing well in demanding roles.
Amongst the professional performers Matthew “Moose” Thompson is lovable as Horton, and Katie McManus’ sour kangaroo is vocally powerful. Jaclyn Young was unfortunately unable to able to sing due a case of laryngitis, but created an empathetic and compelling Gertrude McFuzz nonetheless. Her part was sung well from the side of stage by Music Director Evie Korovesis, a welcome reminder of her important role in getting such detailed, clearly articulated vocal performances from the whole cast.
Among the younger performers Allie Lytle’s Mayzie LaBird, is worthy of particular note. She has beautiful vocal control, and is a mature and convincing rendering, of which an even more experienced performer would be envious.
Jack Golden’s scenic design had children running on to the stage after the show, keen to explore, and Brian Stefaniak’s lighting design works well throughout. In the final touching moments of the musical, McFuzz reassures Horton that there is a place in the world for their ‘elephant bird,’ and that if Horton can “teach him earth” then she’ll “teach him sky.” NextStop Theatre’s production never fails to capture earth, and sky, but also manages worlds beyond and between both.
Running Time: Approximately 75 minutes with an intermission.
Advisory: Family friendly.
Seussical the Musical runs until December 20, 2015 at the NextStop Theatre Company, 269 Sunset Park Drive, Herndon, Virginia 20170. For tickets call 866-811-4111 or purchase them online here.