'SEUSSICAL THE MUSICAL': Theatre Review by Jillian Baker
When you think of children’s literature, a name that almost immediately springs to mind is Dr. Seuss. His imaginative exploration of a world unencumbered by the mundane creates a colorful and vivid stage upon which many of the world’s harshest realities are played. It is this world, and all of it’s truly bizarre inhabitants that Western’s Althouse College has attempted to capture with their production of Seussical the Musical. Co-Directors Sarrah Farrant and Ian Campbell brought to the stage all of most incredible elements of Seuss’ world, creating a vision which was impossible to tear your eyes away from.
Upon entering Althouse College’s auditorium, the eye is immediately drawn to the impeccable set design. The whimsical shapes and designs and colours of Seuss’ world have been marvelously brought to life by a group of almost 20 designers; and with multiple orifices serving as entrances for characters, the set dominated and controlled what might otherwise have been a chaotic narrative. With characters of all shapes, sizes and species emerging all over the stage, the set acted as a jungle gym of sorts (fitting, as the play is set in the fantastical Jungle of Nool) propelling and enhancing the performance of all of actors that graced the stage. Nestled in among the intricately plotted structures on the stage were the members of the band, whose live presence on the stage brought a whole new layer of life and excitement to the already very lively production. This being said, the production lacked stage monitors meaning that as much as the band’s presence on the stage added to the over all energy of the performance, it did inhibit the singers on stage, who at times neither followed the rhythm nor the key of the music being played behind them.
Technical hiccups aside, the narrative is an exciting plot with incredible music and impressive choreography. We follow Jojo (Jillian Adams), a daydreamer whose big ideas get her into trouble. Adams’ strong vocals and big smile lent to the lovable and warm character as she passes through various trials set to her by the Cat in the Hat (Carolyn Murray). The Cat acts as both trickster and narrator, guiding Jojo through her Big Think. Murray was everything the Cat in the Hat needed to be: quirky, charismatic, wily, and kind; providing perfectly timed comic relief for whenever a situation became too dire. The story also follows Horton the Elephant (Alexander Gold) as he attempts to save the tiny planet he has discovered on a speck of dust. Gold brings optimism and enthusiasm to the character, making himself into the naive and lovable pachyderm we fell in love with as children. Horton’s efforts are thwarted by the actions of Mayzie La Bird (Erica Seetner) and the Sour Kangaroo (Natalia Da Silva), who for freedom or propriety would leave him in a sticky situation. Both Seetner and Da Silva delivered powerful vocals, each respectively stealing the spotlight in every scene they were in. My personal favourite, however, regardless of all prior praise was most definitely Alison Ostrom’s Gertrude McFuzz. Sweet, shy and aching for affection, Gertrude pines for Horton, and goes to great lengths to procure his attentions. Ostrom flawlessly inhabits the role, breathing life into the timid songbird and delivering the clearest vocals in the production. The cast was peppered with hilariously quirky characters such as the Mayor of Who and his wife (Travis Smalley and Leeanna Caligagan), beautifully harmonizing their concerns for their daughter, Jojo. Or the hilariously obtuse General Ghengis Khan Schmitz (David Ulbrych) whose low opinion of butter-side-downers threatens to start a war in Who.
I must say, that although the lead characters in the musical had our sides splitting with laughter, or our hearts welling with happiness, the true heroes of this production are the ensemble cast. The chorus was filled to it’s brim with impressive acrobatic performers, keen tap dancers, and the most consistent vocalists of the entire production. Weaving their way in and out of scenes seamlessly, these performers complimented the action, and transitioned so smoothly that there wasn’t a moment’s pause in the entire production—which I imagine went over well with their younger matinee audiences earlier in the week.
The musical in and of itself is easily the happiest and most uplifting musical I have ever had the opportunity to see, and the cast and crew from the Faculty of Education have only added to my good opinion of this production. Their particular production was lively, exciting, hilarious and perfectly timed, leaving people giggling in their seats long after the lights had gone down.
I would give this musical a 4.5/5!
Only one more night to see it, so don’t miss your chance!