Walking into the F. Scott Fitzgerald Theatre, you are greeted by an ivy-encased orchestra pit, wooden cutouts of Truffula Trees, and a giant red and white striped hat. The curtains will eventually pull back to reveal a bridge, waterfall, and rainbow staircase. It’s none other than Rockville Musical Theatre’s (RMT) “Seussical.”
In Lynn Ahrens’ and Stephen Flaherty’s Seussical, a young Who from Whoville named Jojo (Annabel Kotek and Imani Corbin) has an imagination that runs wild. Unfortunately for Jojo, his “thinks” keeps getting him into trouble, especially when the Cat in the Hat (Michael Page) gets involved. But the Whos have bigger problems: their world is on a speck of dust on a clover and only Horton the Elephant (William Lewis) can hear them! The other animals in the Jungle of Nool, especially Sour Kangaroo (Courtney James), think Horton has lost his mind and that he and his clover should be punished. Only the one-feathered bird Gertrude McFuzz (Lauren Downing) believes him. Will Jojo’s “thinks” and Horton’s loyalty be enough to save Whoville?
In order to execute such an involved show, RMT cast almost 40 actors, all of whom were very talented. Colleen Prior’s choreography did an excellent job of highlighting each actor and giving them their time to shine. Jessica Stahl and Jordan Daugherty as Thing 1 and Thing 2 stood out as the two dancing focal points, telling the story without making a sound. The Wickersham Brothers (Chad Rabago, Kurtis Carter, and Kyle Sprankle) also effectively used movement to carry the plot, channeling stereotypical schoolyard bullies and jumping around to intimidate Horton.
Across the board the acting and singing were outstanding. Lewis’ adorable giggle showcased Horton’s joy at having made a friend, and he delivered all Horton’s songs with the earnestness the character needs. Page’s mischievous Cat in the Hat seemed modeled off of Mike Myers’ take on the character, though Page may have outpaced Myers in the character’s energy. James and Downing were two of the best singers of the bunch, especially when belting. Yet, the most impressive performance was Kotek’s Jojo. Kotek and Corbin alternate days as the lead and Kotek was performing when I went to review. Although quiet towards the beginning of the show, Kotek quickly caught her spark and was on fire for the rest of the performance. She showed an understanding of staging and movement much more advanced than might be expected for her age, and her voice was strong throughout. She will be one to watch.
In addition to the incredibly talented cast, the wacky costumes and creative set come to be expected in performances of “Seussical” did not disappoint. Maggie Modig’s set and Cathy Kieserman’s props were wonderfully creative. Boats sporting Dr. Seuss’ birth and pen names glided across a stage replete with tissue paper clovers. A nest perched high in a Truffula Tree looks as though it is made of spiralized pool noodles. Ginger Ager’s colorful, detailed costumes were right off the pages of Seuss’ books. The bird costumes with feather boa tails were a particular standout.
An active local theatre group since the early 1970s, Rockville Musical Theatre showcases local talent and cultivates a community feel. While waiting for the theatre doors to open, audience members were invited to purchase “candygrams” for the performers that would be distributed during intermission. A full house further demonstrated RMT’s popularity and connection to the local community. A child-friendly show that encourages kids to use their imaginations and follow their hearts, RMT’s “Seussical” is a treat!
Running Time: About 2 hours with a 20-minute intermission.
“Seussical” runs from October 25th through November 10th, 2019 at F. Scott Fitzgerald Theatre, 603 Edmonston Dr, Rockville, MD 20851. For more information about Seussical and Rockville Musical Theatre’s other shows, click here or call 240-314-8690. More information about the F. Scott Fitzgerald Theatre can be found here.