Josh Frost. Photo:Clarksville Little Theatre.
Seussical the Musical
Book by Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty, music by Stephen Flaherty
Based on the Works of Dr. Seuss
Directed by C. Kevin Swansey
Review by Annette Skaggs
Entire contents are copyright © 2019 by Annette Skaggs. All rights reserved.
The impact of the writings of Theodore Geisel, aka Dr. Seuss cannot be overstated. Since his introduction of the mischievous Cat in the Hat and a cache of other fantastical creatures his work has continued to inspire children and adults alike to “think outside of the box”.
I am sure that you have read many of the books and are familiar with the simple rhymes and words that defy language barriers, and you also know how incredible the illustrations are. Seussical the Musical brings it all to the stage in a fun, fanciful, and color filled spectacle. I am happy to say that the team at Clarksville Little Theatre did a good job of bringing the stories to life.
As the curtain rose we saw the familiar red and white striped soft stovepipe hat sitting on the side of the stage. As Boy (Phillip Gahagen) picks the hat up he thinks about a Cat in the Hat. Voilà, out pops the Cat in the Hat (Josh Frost) in all of his glory. As Boy looks at the Cat in astonishment, the Cat shares that that he was brought to life because of the Boy’s “thinks” (“Oh, the Thinks You Can Think”). To thank him the Cat shares the story of a boy that is as imaginative as him.
The story centers on the beloved character of Horton the Elephant (Jareth Gaddis) and the residents of the Jungle of Nool. Nool is comprised with a menagerie of characters, many of whom we are very familiar with, such as Mayzie La Bird (Carmen Miller), Whoville Residents and The Grinch (Cooper Pennington), among many others.
Horton’s superior hearing allows him to hear the Whos that live on a speck of dust. Among Whoville’s citizens is Jojo (Phillip Gahagen playing a dual role), who has an imagination as big as Boy’s. It is because of Jojo’s “thinks” that his parents, The Mayor and his wife (Ben James and Valerie Webb, respectively), decide that what is best to tame Jojo’s imagination is to send him to military school. Ultimately, it is Jojo’s ability to imagine that saves him.
The stage is awash with a cavalcade of characters that are brightly feathered or festooned in fur, such as the talented Bird Girls (Arianna Hart, Elizabeth Ruve, and Kimberly Roeten) and the ill-behaved Wickerham Brothers (Roscoe Henning, James Buckle, and Cajani Hiurd). Other standouts are Dionne Burns as Sour Kangaroo and Alex Bona as Gertrude McFuzz, who falls in love with Horton.
Aside from the wonderful costumes that were assembled by the director and cast, the stage props and set were truly Seussical as well, put together by an army of supporters, including Jerry Prince and Jim Baird.
Musically, under the direction of Theo Harrah, there were some great moments and not so great ones. I couldn’t help but notice that the citizens of Whoville often had consistent problems with tonality and forgetting lyrics. However, the younger of the Whos showed lots of exuberance and happiness to be on stage. Another issue was, although on the whole both Ms. Miller and Ms. Bona did well with their respective songs, there were times that their vocal range just could not support the notes of the songs, such as in Mayzie’s “Amazing Mayzie” and Gertrude’s “All for You”. As to the former, Mr. Frost’s Cat and Mr. Gaddis’ Horton were energized, often pitch-perfect and articulate.
Director C. Kevin Swansey kept the pace of the performance moving at a good clip and Donna Baird’s choreography was great fun, even to the point it looked like some of it may have been extemporaneous.
It is quite evident that this large cast of actors and the production company worked hard in assembling Seussical the Musical and while there were some bugaboos about it, you can’t help but to walk away thinking about the lessons, often expressed through the sound advice of Horton the Elephant: “A Person is a Person…” or “I Said What I Said and I Said What I Meant…”
Seussical The Musical
September 6, 7, 13, & 14 at 8:00 PM
September 15 at 2:00 PM
For tickets, please call the box office at 812.283.6522
Clarksville Little Theatre
301 E. Montgomery Avenue
Keith Waits is a native of Louisville who works at Louisville Visual Art during the days, including being the host of LVA’s Artebella On The Radio on WXOX 97.1 FM / ARTxFM.com, but spends most of his evenings indulging his taste for theatre, music and visual arts. His work has appeared in LEO Weekly, Pure Uncut Candy, TheatreLouisville, and Louisville Mojo. He is now Managing Editor for Arts-Louisville.com.