SEUSSICAL

Theodor Seuss Geisel probably never imagined the day that so many of his creations—including an elephant who hatches an egg, a boy with a head full of “thinks,” and a cat (in a hat)—would end up sharing a stage together, but these are just some of the Dr. Seuss icons who light up the Morgan-Wixson Theatre’s absolutely splendid Seussical (The Musical).

Taking most of its multiple plot threads and distinctively rhyming dialog from a trio of classic Dr. Seuss tales, Seussical adds to them over two-dozen of lyricist Lynn Ahrens and composer Stephen Flattery’s catchiest confections to make for the family-friendliest musical this side of Disney.

Ahrens and Flaherty’s show-stopping “Oh The Thinks You Can Think” sets the stage for the 2000 Broadway musical’s lead characters.

They are a) “an elephant up in a tree” (Steven Flowers as Horton), b) “a person too tiny to see” (Nicholas Vizzi as JoJo Who), c) “a bird with a one-feather tail” (Annie Claire Hudson as Gertrude McFuzz), d) “a bird who flies off on a spree” (Amy Coles as Mayzie La Bird), e) “a kangaroo sour as can be” (Alicia Luoma as Sour Kangaroo), and f) “a general crazy for war” (Spencer Johnson as General Genghis Khan Schmitz).

In a mashup of two of Dr. Seuss’s favorite storybook tales, Horton not only hears a Who (and promises to protect the inhabitants of the smallest planet in the universe), he does his jilted bird friend Mayzie the favor of hatching her egg as she off for some Palm Beach r&r.

As for JoJo, the boy whose “thinks” have aroused the ire of his parents and teachers, the spunky young lad gets sent off to military school and eventually to a war fought between those who eat their bread butter-side-up and those who eat it butter-side-down.

Gertrude, meanwhile, fearing that her single pathetic tail feather is the reason that Horton has never noticed her, seeks medical help from a doctor who looks just like The Cat In The Hat.

And Seussical is just getting started.

Under director Anne Gesling’s masterfully effervescent direction, a cast of Morgan-Wixson favorites deliver one splendiferous performance after another, beginning with Tiernan’s wickedly wacky, adeptly ad-libbing Cat In The Hat, stopping the show with “How Lucky You Are” and “Havin’ A Hunch.”

13-year-old Vizzi’s wonderfully winning JoJo shows off future-star potential throughout (and pitch-perfect pipes in “It’s Possible” and “Alone In The Universe”).

Flowers is sweetness personified as Horton, Hudson’s one-feathered Gertrude could not be more gawkily adorable nor Coles’ it’s-all-about-me Mayzie more ab-fab, Luoma’s Sour Kangaroo belts “Biggest Blame Fool” to do a Dreamgirl proud, and Johnson’s war-crazy General Genghis Khan Schmitz blusters with the best of them.

Making briefer but memorable appearances are Yertle The Turtle (Ray Okida), judge at Horton’s trial, and the Grinch (Niko Montelibano) of Christmas-stealing fame.

Daniel Koh and Fiona Porter’s Mr. and Mrs. Mayor and Hollister Starrett’s Vlad Vladikoff are all three terrific as are the scene-stealing Wickersham Brothers (Daniel Gaitan, Lauren Blair, and Montelibano), the equally fabulous Bird Girls (Daisy Billington, Mirai Booth-Ong, Dana Mazarin, Rosey Murrah, Chanelle Nibbelink, and Eileen O’Donnell), and Erika Brauer, Sadie Fisher, Tess Hubbard, Thea Lawson, Milla Moretti, Fiona Okida, Lexie Palmer, Lucille Tate, and Ella Ward as assorted Whos, Jungle Creatures, and Cadets.

Musical director Koh has his cast blending voices harmoniously as Blair’s eclectic choreography dazzles again and again to prerecorded instrumental tracks, from the pizzazzy “How Lucky You Are” (featuring Lucky Tappers Billington and Ward) to the street-funky Wickershams’ “Monkeying Around” to the precision pizzazz of “The Military,” with some circus acrobatics and a gorgeous underwater ballet thrown in for good measure.

Scenic designer Tristan Griffin and costume designer Kristie Rutledge give Seussical so sensational a look, it alone merits a trip to the Morgan-Wixson.

Griffin’s ever-morphing multilevel Technicoloriffic set, vividly lit by Bill Wilday, captures the distinctively quirky curves that make just about any Theodor Geisel illustration instantly recognizable as Dr. Seuss’s.

Rutledge’s costumes are the epitome of originality and flair, from the Bird Ladies’ psychedelic frocks and fluorescent bouffant dos (with special snaps to Mayzie’s shocking-pink feathered Oscar-ready gown) to Candy Land-ready Who-wear to an imaginative menagerie of circus animals and archetypes, and no Cat In The Hat would dare set foot in public without his signature red-and-white striped chapeau.

Seussical is produced by Meredith Wright. George Spelvin is stage manager. Zoe D’Andrea plays Sour Kangaroo July 15 through July 28.

It’s hard to imagine a summer musical treat more ideally suited to kids, parents, and grandparents alike than Seussical. Check it out at the Morgan-Wixson and you too will be telling the world “How Lucky You Are.”

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Morgan-Wixson Theatre, 2627 Pico Boulevard, Santa Monica.
www.morgan-wixson.org

–Steven Stanley
June 24, 2017

 

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