As a devotee of Dr. Seuss for many years (I even did my college essay in Theodor Geisel’s Dr. Seuss-ese!), I was looking forward to NextStop’s interpretation of Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty’s 2000 Broadway musical Seussical, which incorporated such classic tales as Horton Hears a Who!, If I Ran the Circus, The Cat in the Hat and other favorites, and I must confess to all the Sam I Ams out there that I did like it.
It was an inspired choice by director Jennifer Lambert to combine a few professional adult theater veterans with a cast of nearly two-dozen young actors, each radiating easygoing spunk and offering all the joy that the noteworthy stories exhibit.
From the very first notes of the opening song, “Oh the Thinks You Can Think,” it was easy to tell it was going to be an enjoyably night. Seussical celebrates friendship and community as much as the power of the imagination, and focuses on the underdogs—a staple in Dr. Seuss’s arsenal of books—such as the microscopic Whos, Horton, the kind-hearted elephant, and the plain-Jane avian Gertrude McFuzz, who hopes to attract Horton with a new tail.
As Horton, Matthew “Moose” Thompson has a quiet tenderness that might be surprising to those who at first glance see this big man with a beard, and expect more of a feral portrayal of the celebrated elephant. But it’s soon revealed that his heart is just as large as his body. From his very first notes on “Horton Hears a Who,” Thompson connects to the audience and as his story unfolds, we are cheering for him to succeed and rooting for his cause of protecting the Whos.
Jaclyn Young was a delight as the aforementioned Gertrude, with a very bird-like charming voice that easily brought smiles to the audience. Unfortunately, on the night of this review, Young was experiencing a case of laryngitis so she wasn’t able to sing, but musical director Evie Korovesis filled in adeptly and Young lip-synched along without missing a beat.
Taking on the role of the infamous Cat in the Hat, Ben Cherington hops about on stage here and there, but seems to be missing some of the joyous playfulness that one might expect from Dr. Seuss’ most popular character. This appears to be more of a problem with the show’s book than Cherington’s portrayal, but I would have liked to have seen the character make a bigger impression and play to the audience a bit more.
Katie McManus was loud and boisterous as the Sour Kangaroo and had fun interacting with the audience—although she was helped a tad by the adorable toddler Miles Hoffmann, who did his best kangaroo roar on cue. McManus seemed to know how to play to a young crowd more than the others, something important in a show like this when the audience is highly represented by children.
SEUSSICAL THE MUSICAL
December 4 – December 20, 2015
269 Sunset Business Park
Herndon, VA 20170
1 hour, 30 minutes with 1 intermission
Fridays thru Sundays
As for the younger members of the cast, Allie Lytle is a hoot as Mayzie LaBird and has an incredible voice that made the song, “Amazing Mayzie” one to remember. Erik Peyton delivered great facial expressions as the boy who interacts with the Cat in the Hat, and the pairing of Connor Brunson and Ivy Ridenhour as Mr. and Mrs. Mayor gave us some great laughs. Other standouts included the girl backup singers for Mayzie (Ruth McCoy Miles, Alana Riso, Maggie Sivka and Mallory St. Arnold) and the three dancing Wickersham Brothers (Jack Dalrymple, Jalen Robinson and Jon Scanlan.)
Truthfully, the entire young ensemble delivered and Lambert and Katie McManus as choreographer handled the large and mostly un-experienced cast with aplomb.
Special note should be given to costume designer Kristina Martin, whose colorful costumes made the stage bright and fun, as if you were looking into a storybook.
By the time everyone came on stage at the end to sing a song inspired by a Dr. Seuss classic, there was a feeling of good will throughout. Seussical the Musical plays perfectly in the holiday season.
Seussical the Musical . Music by Stephen Flaherty . Book by Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty . Lyrics by Lynn Ahrens . Directed by Jennifer Lambert .
Featuring Erik Peyton, Ben Cherington, Matthew Thompson, Connor Brunson, Ridenhour, Jaclyn Young, Allie Lytle, Katie McManus, Miles Hoffmann, Emma Harris, Lauren Skinner, Jack Dalrymple, Jalen Robinson, Jon Scanlan, Ruth McCoy Miles, Alana Riso, Maggie Slivka, Mallory St. Arnold, William McClough, Kieran Romano, Victoria Cochran, Courtney Cooper, Daniela Dosen, Emma Harris, Delia Hartman, Lauren Skinner, Emily Whitestone, Sophia Bongiovi, Madeline Dosen, Sophia Feldman, Maggie Huse, Claire Johnson, Kieran Romano and Abbey Whitestone
Music Director: Evie Korovesis . Co-Choreographer:Katie McManus . Scenic Designer: Jack Golden . Lighting Designer: Brian Stefaniak . Costume Designer: Kristina Martin . Sound Technician: Josh Redford . Scenic Charge: Cathy Rieder . Production Stage Manager: Kyle Dannahey . Produced by NextStop Theatre Company . Reviewed by Keith Loria.