SEUSSICAL: THE MUSICAL
(This is Jerry's review of the original 2007 Carousel production.)
The colourful rhymes of Dr. Seuss storybooks have been a part of so many childhoods going back to the 1950s when Theodor Geissel, aka Dr. Seuss, published How the Grinch Stole Christmas and The Cat in the Hat. By the time he died in 1991 he had written 44 illustrated books. Seussical: The Musical brings to life classic characters and storylines from 14 of them, with witty music by Stephen Flaherty, lyrics by Lynn Ahrens, and a strong dose of Eric Idle’s Pythonesque zaniness.
Aiming at grades K-7 (and their parents) with special Toddler Matinees for the under-fives, Carousel Theatre’s Carole Higgins stages a highly polished professional production wrapped up like a shiny Christmas gift.
On Alison Green’s brightly painted pastel Seussical set, the Cat in the Hat (Matt Palmer) tells what happens when Horton the Elephant (Allan Zinyk) hears JoJo the Who (Lucas Testini). Trying to save the tiny invisible Whos, Horton is mocked mercilessly by the monkeys and birds in the Jungle of Nool—all but Gertrude McFuzz (Alison MacDonald), who has a crush on him. More adventures ensue when brightly-plumed floozy Mayzie la Bird (Rebecca Talbot) leaves Horton to hatch her egg.
I attended one of the Toddler Matinees (oh, the smell of full diapers) and a lot of the plot went right over the heads of the little ones—not that surprising when they’re only three feet tall. But there’s so much to see and hear up there that only the very youngest aren’t distracted.
With eleven actors plus musicians Steven Greenfield and Julie McIsaac, the stage is always full of song and dance (kudos to Melissa Young’s lively choreography). Barbara Clayden’s delightful costumes and wigs and Itai Erdal’s excellent lighting effects add to the visual feast. The loudest oohs and aahs greet Heidi Wilkinson’s clever Who puppets, exotic fluorescent sea creatures, and cute baby kangaroo, all manipulated by the actors.
And are those actors ever committed. Matt Palmer, the leading man of so many of the Arts Club’s adult musicals, has no trouble turning himself into the funniest, most focused Cat who ever wore the striped top hat. Macdonald makes Gertrude totally lovable and, like Palmer, has a wonderful singing voice. And Zinyk is a knockout as Horton. Wearing just a gray hoodie, he waves an arm and it becomes the elephant’s trunk. His megawatt smile tells the little ones that all will be well. And when he kisses and snuggles the big egg as if it were his only sweet child, you totally believe him.
Shows at 2 and 7 most days with Toddler Matinees Dec. 27, Jan. 2 and 3.