Of course, it had to be called Seussical, match-rhyming with musical. Imbued with Dr. Seuss’ gift for cadenced, rhythmic prose, it is also whimsical. Thus, “Seussical the Musical” bursts onstage at the Alden Theatre, energetically performed by the McLean Community Players.
This colorful, open stage musical never gained much footing in the eyes of Broadway critics. As Theodore Geisel’s Dr. Seuss would intone: “on one hand it was clearly panned.” And aside from a superlative, varied score that drives the plot more than the book, the creators have the challenge of combining several of the beloved Seuss characters into a single musical. It does make the action a bit disjointed, as in a child’s daydream. On the other hand, this amalgam has made the play unique–before 2000, the Broadway scene had never seen anything quite like it, and it gave a pathway to other projects as a theatrical interpretation of books of stories.
Director Shelly Horn and producers Jerry Gideon and Bunny Bonnes have ensured that the infectious energy of young actors is injected into the show.
Back to McLean, Virginia at the Alden theatre, we take in a suspiciously familiar 6 foot slightly askew red and white striped hat onstage. Young preteen Jojo, our instrument of dreams (played by an endearing Ziva Greenblum), is challenged by the personification of the hat, our dreamweaver Jennifer Soraya Rose. Her cat in the hat is perky if not catty, and shows nice movement onstage as the unofficial narrator.
What then develops is a colorful emergence into a jungle world, focusing on dear kind Horton of “Horton Hears a Who.” Played by the imposing Keith Tittermary, he brings a heartfelt determination into what will be the focus of the rest of the show. Can he protect the residents of Who-ville with his friends? What could Green Eggs and Ham have to do with it? It doesn’t really matter. As Horton intones—“a person’s a person no matter how small.”
The stage design brought a jungle aspect of bright greens and primary color while keeping open stage lines. The Who-ville residents are all clad in yellow, giving a smallish symmetry to them. A nod to Set and Scenic Design of Adrienne Gammons and Bill Glikbarg.
Catchy tunes abound, including “Oh, the Thinks You Can Think” by Rose and the cast, and Tittermary’s “Alone in the Universe” nicely shared with Greenblum. And the recurring theme of the show echoes in “How Lucky You Are.”
Fun cameos are offered up by the Bird Girls (colorfully adorned Courtney James, Lindsey McClenathan, Rosemarie O’Connor) and Karen Toth as Mayzie La Bird, strutting her stuff but urging Horton to take care of her egg. (Just go with it).
And a nod to the Wickersham Brothers (Mitchell Burdett, Luke Jackins, Cam Sammartano) who displayed nice coordinated movement circling Horton and his precious providence of Who-ville on his tuft of a clover flower.
MCPs show is a bright, energetic presentation that fulfills the C for Community in having performers of all ages intermix. Director Shelly Horn and producers Jerry Gideon and Bunny Bonnes have ensured that the infectious energy of young actors is injected into the show.
The rest of the production team–music direction by Lori Roddy and Matthew Scarborough and choreography by Hayley North, handled the challenges of a large amateur cast with smooth open movement onstage.
Dr. Seuss’ genius was in creating fairy tales that, unlike others, were hopeful and positive. These characters want to save the world, and that hope is “dream as far as you dare.” Thanks, Horton!
Running Time: 2 hours 20 minutes with an intermission.
“Seussical the Musical” is performed by the Mclean Community Players, 1234 Ingleside Ave, Mclean, VA 22101 from July 12-28, 2019. For tickets to this or other performances in the 2014 season, call (703-790-9223) or online.