Theodor Geisel, affectionately known as Dr. Seuss, is a magical name in anyone’s language. The author’s 60 plus children’s books have been translated into no less than 20 languages, and have sold more than 600 million copies.
In 2000, Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty (with help from Eric Idle) took a mishmash of many of Seuss’ stories and wove them into a magical masterpiece of color and fun, with Flaherty doing the music and Ahrens supplying the lyrics, and called it “Seussical The Musical.”
Tacoma Little Theatre booked the rights for its holiday show for 2017. The theatre staff handed the script to director Jennifer York and told her to run with it.
York took off like a Cat in a Hat to gather the cast and crew of the mystical, magical compilation of the good doctor’s imagination. York was aided by the fantastic artistic staff of talent.
Terry O’Hara, among the best local musical directors, took on the task of leading the 25-member cast to keep on note and key while singing unpronounceable words so they can be perfectly heard and understood by all.
Eric Clausell does the choreography which fits each Seuss creation with moves the author would have done had he been a dancer rather than an artist. Clausell and York fill the stage and at times, the audience with the deliberate wanderings of their energetic cast. WARNING: if on the aisle, keep your feet under your seat!
Blake R York melds his imagination with Dr. Suess’ and comes up with a set design and execution to match the author’s desires perfectly. Ana Bury transfers her artistry in scenic design to give the set the feel that the good doctor may have chosen the colors himself.
Michele Graves devises the imaginative costume plot which matches each unique persona of the off-beat characters. They clothes are as zany as the characters wearing them and appear to be very flexible and comfortable. Jeffery Weaver dresses the hair (or wigs) to match their character perfectly; especially cunning is the Mayor’s hair and beard.
Niclas Olson lights the set with imagination, giving the Who folk the appearance of being small while keeping the “normal” size for the un-normal normal characters.
Dana Galagan maintains control over the zoo of 25 as Stage Manager.
The story is lead by The Cat in the Hat, who appears as the narrator and tells of Horton, the elephant, hearing a sound from atop a clover flower and discovering a world of an infinitesimal people called The Who. Since none of the characters who live in the Jungle of Nool can neither see nor hear the Who, they all say Horton is crazy. And, of course, when someone is crazy, that makes them different, which makes them a danger to their world. Therefore, Horton becomes an outcast when he promises to protect the Who.
The dedicated pachyderm is ridiculed and ostracized by many of his neighbors who try to keep him from his mission. However, he is undaunted and suffers many hardships, including being accosted by three monkeys known as the Wickersham Brothers who steal the clover and drop it in a field of 2,999,999 identical clovers that Horton has to search through to try to find the Who’s home. While doing this task, he meets with Mayzie LaBird who is sitting on her egg in her nest and persuades Horton to take her place so she can go on vacation. Mayzie has so much fun, she forgets about Horton and her egg for months, but Horton is an elephant and elephants never forget – so he remains seated until he is captured by hunters who take Horton to New York and sell him to the Circus McGurkus; still setting on the egg for 51 weeks. Horton finally meets Mayzie once more who tells the gentle giant he should keep the egg and wishes him good luck when it hatches and leaves. Unable to find the clover with the Who’s world, Horton decides to shift his mission to caring for the egg.
During this time, the Who’s Mayor and his wife have problems with Jojo and decide she should be sent to military school to be taught to conform. While there, there is a battle in which Jojo is presumed dead — the people of Whoville are still lost in the clover field and her parents reflect on how they went wrong with raising Jojo.
Meanwhile, Gertrude sneaks into the circus and frees Horton. She confesses she loves him and reveals that she had found the Who’s clover; Horton is delighted to find the Whos alive and well. However, the Sour Kangaroo suddenly appears and, with the Wickersham Brothers, kidnaps Horton and drag him back to the Jungle of Nool where he is put on trial for “talking to a speck and disturbing the peace.”
Horton is found guilty and sentenced to the “Nool Asylum for the Criminally Insane,” and the clover is to be destroyed. Horton encourages the Whos to make as much noise as they can to prove they exist.
The Whos are finally heard and the court acquits Horton, and the Sour Kangaroo resolves to also help protect the clover. In Whoville, Jojo is celebrated for her achievement of being a Thinker Non-Stop.
Suddenly, the egg hatches and produces a tiny flying Elephant-Bird. Horton panics, realizing he is unable to teach his hatchling to fly. Gertrude reassures him that he can teach him earth and she will teach him sky. They agree to raise the child together as mother and father – and all sing and dance happily ever after.
York has chosen excellent performers to keep the production running like clock-work from opening to closing curtain.
All the cast member explode on the TLT stage with vigor and energy in a colorful cacophony of sight and sound dancing and singing at the top of their lungs “Oh, The Thinks You Can Think,” and the production goes up from there, whizzing into “Horton Hears a Who.”
There are six in the Ensemble, which includes Kathy Kluska, Gunnar Ray, Thalia Wood, Megan Rose, Olivia Zamira and Caje Johnson. All are proven talents who keep the main characters in the forefront while adding support to the story and musical numbers.
The Bird Girls are played by four fine feathered females; Cain Burke is Green, Maddie Fry is Purple, Emma Konop is Pink and Jayda Slack is Blue. These rainbow birds fly about the stage giving the same kind of excellent backup as the Ensemble.
The Wickersham Brothers are Liam Loughridge, Charlie Stevens and James Wrede, who also plays Yertle the Turtle. These three are like uneven triplets, they work so well together and are so bad they are really good.
Andrew Fry plays General Gengus Khan Schmitz, the head of the military school Jojo is forced to attend. Fry is a great fit in his pompous character; his over-the-top military behavior is a scary kind of fun.
Courtney Eggert is the grouchy Sour Kangaroo. Eggert’s character’s disdain for Horton is obvious from her stance and look as well as her booming voice telling all that the elephant is the “Biggest Blame Fool” in the Jungle of Nool and backs up her opinion during “The People Versus Horton the Elephant.” Eggert proves a demanding leading force against Horton.
The role of Young Kangaroo is shared by two actors; Caleb Corpeno ably pays the role for the evening performances and Evie Merrill takes over for matinees.
Samantha Lobberegt is amazing as Mayzie LaBird, the beautiful bird with the short memory and a penchant for pleasure. Lobberegt’s voice is bold and bright, especially when agreeing that she is “Amazing Mayzie,” and she flaunts it about the stage with self-assured arrogance; very nicely done.
Brittany Griffins is a wonderful counter-part to Horton as Gertrude McFuzz. Griffins makes Gertrude a loving and giving bird who is so self-conscious of her short-comings when she beautifully sings about “The One Feather Tail of Miss Gertrude McFuzz;” the actress shows her true feelings for Horton when she forgoes her beautiful new tail in order to help her secret love.
Micheal O’Hara and Sharry O’Hare are Jojo’s mother and father, Mr. and Mrs. Mayor. This true- life married couple is perfect for the roles of the whimsical duo trying to learn “How to Raise a Child.” Not only do both have excellent singing voices, but they both look the parts – just like the stepped out of Whoville and onto the TLT stage.
Alexandria Bray is bright and charming as Jojo, the Who who takes the Cat’s advice and learns when “The Things You Can Think” become “…Possible.” This lovely young lady has the right voice for the character and a wonderful stage presence. Most of all, she seems to enjoy her role and has fun with it.
Steve Barnett is our gentle hero Horton the Elephant. Barnett plays a selfless creature who is always looking for a way to be helpful. Barnett’s voice is the calming factor in the production. It is a perfect counterpoint to relax the energetic high brought about by the rest of the cast – like the comic relief in a heavy drama – he gives the audience a chance to breath. Barnett soulful rendition of “Alone in the Universe” attests to this.
Christopher Sweet is outstanding as a mischievous Cat in the Hat. The dancing feline with a grease pencil mustache and whiskers grabs the audience and pulls them into the action as soon as the lights go down – he simply purloins the show.
“Seussical The Musical” continues at Tacoma Little Theatre at 210 North I Street through December 24 at 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays with 2 p.m. matinees Sundays and special added performances Wednesday and Thursday December 21 and 22 at 7:30 p.m. as well as an additional Saturday 2 p.m. matinee December 23.
Choose “Seussical The Musical” to make your Christmas entertainment perfect. TLT’s cast, crew and staff have done it “All For You” and you’ll really know “How lucky You Are” to be included in this joyous production.
Just remember most children’s stories have a moral. Seuss sneaks some in here in plain sight: Be who you are; Keep your promises; and a person’s a person no matter how small. Learn and enjoy!