Regional Reviews: San Francisco
Seussical is a Charming Musical
The Ray of Light Theatre recently presented Seussical at the Presentation Theatre on Turk Street off Masonic in San Francisco. Director Ellyn Marsh assembled a large cast of talented singers and dancers to present this energetic musical using some of the sets from the Broadway production. San Francisco finally had a chance to see the musical based on Dr. Seuss's works.
Seussical opened at the Richard Rodgers Theatre on November 1, 2000 where it received tepid reviews, some of which included complaints that there were just too many characters and plotlines with very little whimsy. The producers tried to keep the musical going by bringing in Rosie O'Donnell, and later Cathy Rigby, to play the Cat in the Hat. It was to no avail and the musical closed after 198 performances.
Seussical has become a stable for regional and school companies since it is an excellent family musical centering on two Dr. Seuss stories: "Horton Hears A Who" and "Horton Hatches the Egg." The producers also added characters from other Dr. Seuss book, causing the piece to become top heavy with many characters that are not fleshed out.
Stephen Flaherty's music is bright and breezy. Lynn Ahrens' lyrics are cute and clever, with Seuss-like words. The evening starts with the infectiously melodic opener, "Oh, the Thinks You Can Think," which is repeated several times along with the upbeat "How Lucky You Are."
Seussical centers around a young boy named JoJo (Bobby Conte Thornton) who brings the Cat In the Hat (Chris Uzelac) onto the stage to be the narrator. Horton the elephant (Doug Knight) hears the tiny people living on a speck of dust inside of a clover. These are the "Whos" who have their own little universe. Unfortunately, Horton is the only animal who can hear their tiny voices so nobody in the jungle believes him. Horton is manipulated into sitting on Mayzie LaBird's (Amy Elaine Warner) egg while she goes on holiday to Palm Springs. Adventures and chaos ensue as Horton tries to protect the Whos and the egg while being caught by hunters, sold to a circus and taken to court. The subplot follows adventures in Whoville which include Christmas with the Grinch and a shy Gertrude McFuzz's (Jessica Quarles) romantic pursuit of Horton. All of this happens within a two hour with intermission production.
Chris Uzelac (Lamplighters member) is an effervescent, likeable character as the narrator. He is vivacious in his rendition of "How Lucky You Are." Doug Knight (Oregon actor) gives a genuine performance as Horton the elephant who gets ridiculed by members of the jungle community for hearing tiny voices. He delivers the a heartfelt message that "a person is a person, no matter how small."
The talented 13-year-old Bobby Conte Thornton (who has been acting and singing since age three) is wonderful as Jo-Jo. He is completely secure in this role and has thematic resonance in his rendition of "It's Possible" and "Alone in the Universe." This experienced trouper is very likeable on stage. Amy Elaine Warner (graduate of The American Musical and Dramatic Academy in New York) brings the role of Mayzie LaBird to life. Mayzie is an elegant feathered bird. Warner has great vocal cords when singing the reprise of "How Lucky You Are." Cheve Alexander (Wild Party, Ain't Misbehavin') as Sour Kangaroo belts out the songs "Biggest Blame Fool" and "Chasing the Whos." Jessica Quarles (recent Musical Theatre graduate of James Madison University) is wonderful as Gertrude McFuzz. She comes across as a sweet and loveable character who wants love and affection from Horton. She has sweet chops when singing "The One Feather Tale of Miss Gertrude McFuzz."
Brian J. Patterson, Patrik Gallineaux and Enrique Vallejo are excellent athletic dancers as the Wickersham Brothers but very hard to understand when singing Lynn Ahren's lyrics. However, that can be blamed on the sound system of the theatre. Dale Murphy and Zoe Conner give good account of themselves as Mr. and Mrs. Mayor of Who Town, and Dan Clanton as General Genghis Kahn Schmitz is properly military in his small role. The rest of the large cast, which consists of actors/singers/dancers ranging from six to thirty, is great
The ensemble numbers, choreograph by Erin Cole, have a lot of pizzazz and there is a very clever lighting and luminescent costume in the song and dance number "Havin' a Hunch." Ellyn Marsh directs with a firm hand. Sean Bart leads an excellent orchestra that makes the composer's music lively and entertaining.
Seussical he Musical closed on July 16th.