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SEUSSICAL, THE MUSICAL

SEUSSICAL, THE MUSICAL

Music by Stephen Flahtery
Book by Stephen Flahtery and Lynn Ahrens
Lyrics by Lynn Ahrens

Firehouse Theatre

I don’t think I’ve ever met someone who doesn’t like Dr. Seuss. His first book, And To Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street, was published in 1937, and I’ll admit that it was a favorite of my boys growing up. Seuss published over 60 books during his career, which have spawned numerous adaptations, including 11 television specials, four feature films, four television series, and a very popular musical you may have heard of called Seussical, the Musical, which debuted on Broadway in 2000 - nine years after his death in 1991.

While Seussical is performed frequently throughout the country by everyone from children’s pay-to-play “educational” programs, middle schools, and high schools, to community and professional theatres, D/FW is very fortunate that director Derek Whitener has chosen to bring it to life at The Firehouse Theatre.

Put quite simply, this show is an absolute delight from start to finish. From the huge red and white “big top” curtain reminiscent of a famous cat’s hat that keeps the audience from seeing Kevin Brown’s amazing set until the show starts to Victor Newman Brockwell’s astoundingly detailed costumes, Whitener has not allowed anything to be out of place. The actors are all spot on, Bethany Lorentzen’s choreography is lively and energetic, and the music is beautifully sung. If there are any tickets left, you need to go see this show.

So that’s it in a nutshell...but I really must go into detail. Between the set and costumes, Brown and Brockwell have created a fantabulous cartoon world that Theodore Geisel would swear came straight off the pages of his books. The brightly colored, multi-level set is extremely fun, in addition to being functional – lots of round platforms and curving stairs for the actors to dance and play on. There’s even a trap door! The costumes follow the cartoon pattern to a T as well, complete with black outlines and squiggly lines drawn on them to give them two-dimension depth. The detail is phenomenal! I’ve honestly never seen anything like these costumes, and the makeup and wigs skillfully complement the cartoon feel as well.

Whitener has cast his show darn near perfectly. Alex Krus plays Horton the Elephant with a sweetness that is just adorable, and Rachel Reininger is as charming as can be as Gertrude McFuzz. Her adoration of Horton is almost palpable, and when the two get together at the end, I swear I nearly cried because they were so endearing. Contrasting their syrupy cuteness is Danielle Estes as the beautiful yet self-involved Mayzie LaBird. Her lazy “it’s all about me” attitude was simply flawless. Krus has an extremely expressive face that displayed all the various emotions Horton goes through throughout the show. These three characters carry my favorite portion of the storyline, an


Reviewed Performance: 9/16/2017

Reviewed by Carol M. Rice, Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN

I don’t think I’ve ever met someone who doesn’t like Dr. Seuss. His first book, And To Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street, was published in 1937, and I’ll admit that it was a favorite of my boys growing up. Seuss published over 60 books during his career, which have spawned numerous adaptations, including 11 television specials, four feature films, four television series, and a very popular musical you may have heard of called Seussical, the Musical, which debuted on Broadway in 2000 - nine years after his death in 1991.

While Seussical is performed frequently throughout the country by everyone from children’s pay-to-play “educational” programs, middle schools, and high schools, to community and professional theatres, D/FW is very fortunate that director Derek Whitener has chosen to bring it to life at The Firehouse Theatre.

Put quite simply, this show is an absolute delight from start to finish. From the huge red and white “big top” curtain reminiscent of a famous cat’s hat that keeps the audience from seeing Kevin Brown’s amazing set until the show starts to Victor Newman Brockwell’s astoundingly detailed costumes, Whitener has not allowed anything to be out of place. The actors are all spot on, Bethany Lorentzen’s choreography is lively and energetic, and the music is beautifully sung. If there are any tickets left, you need to go see this show.

So that’s it in a nutshell...but I really must go into detail. Between the set and costumes, Brown and Brockwell have created a fantabulous cartoon world that Theodore Geisel would swear came straight off the pages of his books. The brightly colored, multi-level set is extremely fun, in addition to being functional – lots of round platforms and curving stairs for the actors to dance and play on. There’s even a trap door! The costumes follow the cartoon pattern to a T as well, complete with black outlines and squiggly lines drawn on them to give them two-dimension depth. The detail is phenomenal! I’ve honestly never seen anything like these costumes, and the makeup and wigs skillfully complement the cartoon feel as well.

Whitener has cast his show darn near perfectly. Alex Krus plays Horton the Elephant with a sweetness that is just adorable, and Rachel Reininger is as charming as can be as Gertrude McFuzz. Her adoration of Horton is almost palpable, and when the two get together at the end, I swear I nearly cried because they were so endearing. Contrasting their syrupy cuteness is Danielle Estes as the beautiful yet self-involved Mayzie LaBird. Her lazy “it’s all about me” attitude was simply flawless. Krus has an extremely expressive face that displayed all the various emotions Horton goes through throughout the show. These three characters carry my favorite portion of the storyline, and they were simply a joy to watch and listen to.

They were accompanied by outstanding performances by Branden A. Bailey, Ryan C. Machen, and Rare Orion as the pesky Wickersham Brothers. These three actors danced and turned flips and made a general nuisance of themselves to poor Horton. They gave the kind of intense physical performances that made you wish their roles were bigger, just because they were so much fun to watch.

The Bird Girls, played by Cayley Davis, Caitlin Galloway, and choreographer Bethany Lorentzen (who replaced Sara Kennedy at the performance I saw), as well as Young Bird Girls Taylor Baxter and Elizabeth Rose Jiede, also added to the storyline with their tight harmonies and choreography. All of these ladies are excellent singers and dancers, and they smoothly helped move the story along. The Citizens of Nool (Bwalya Chisanga, Savannah DeCrow, Samuel Ea, and Bella Ehring) and Yertle the Turtle (Taylor M. Owen) also added flair to the proceedings.

I’ve never seen the Sour Kangaroo done in drag before, but Malcolm Payne Jr. manages to pull it off! With his “young kangaroo” in a designer bag, he towers over everyone in platform heels and a flowing orange jumpsuit while singing his heart out and rudely berating Horton for protecting a dust speck.

Then there are the Whos, the poor little persons Horton is trying desperately to protect on that speck. Mr. Mayor and Mrs. Mayor are played with cartoonish glee by Kris Allen and Hilary Allen, but even Who parents seem to have trouble with their children. Their confusion about their son JoJo’s “thinks” leads to some questionable parenting decisions, but JoJo gets through it all right with help from the infamous Cat in the Hat. At the performance I reviewed, Ciaran Barlow played JoJo with wide-eyed innocence and a pure, clear singing voice. As The Cat in the Hat, Matthew Vinson seemed to have boundless energy. He is, perhaps, a little young to be playing such a wise character, but he made up for his youth with nice facial expressions and physicality as he took on various small roles from time to time to advance the story quickly.

The rest of the Whos were played by an adorable group of children of various ages and sizes. Some were completely engaged in the story and the songs (and I can see them taking on much larger roles as they get older), while we could forgive those who weren’t because they were just so precious!

Not to be overlooked are Thing 1 and Thing 2, played by Lauren Brown and Derril Lasseigne respectively. As in The Cat in the Hat books, these two mischievous “Things” had their hands in everything, and they made it look effortless as they turned cartwheels and danced and carried around the longest Gertrude McFuzz tail I’ve ever seen, among other things. In my mind, these two were the unsung heroes of the story, as it seems as though nothing would have happened without them.

Kelly Schaaf does a remarkable job with the musical direction, especially for such a large cast. Group numbers had strong harmonies, even when keeping up with Lorentzen’s choreography, and even the little Whos always sounded great. Solos were heartfelt and engaging and matched the characters. Lorentzen was a master of fitting a ton of people - all moving in sync - onstage and making it look easy.

A good performance of a show like Seussical, the Musical should leave the audience smiling and humming the songs, and The Firehouse Theatre was successful in doing just that. And in this case, it also left me in awe because Whitener and his cast somehow managed to combine the silliness and caricature of Dr. Seuss’ books with the underlying humanity he always wrote with. Sure, it’s an entertaining show, but there’s just something more to this production, and I strongly encourage you to see it for yourself.

SEUSSICAL, THE MUSICAL
The Firehouse Theatre
2535 Valley View Lane
Farmers Branch, TX 75234

Runs through Sunday, September 24

Actual days: Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 7:30 pm and Saturday and Sunday at 2:30 pm.

Tickets are $10 to 20

For information and to purchase tickets, go to www.thefirehousetheatre.com or call the box office at 972.620.3747.
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