Broadway World Review: SEUSSICAL

Keegan Theatre’s SEUSSICAL: THE MUSICAL is bright and exuberant. It’s a production full of heart and hope.

The Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty musical is ambitious for the company – and the tiny stage. The company delivers. The twelve cast members and the six-person band fill the space with music and movement, working on tiers and in every nook and cranny of the stage. This SEUSSICAL, co-directed and choreographed by Kurt Boehm and Ashleigh King, is bold and energetic. In the intimate 120-seat theatre, the audience is always close to the action.

This is a talented ensemble with strong vocal and dance chops on display. Quincy Vicks as The Cat in the Hat is a grand emcee, ushering the audience (and young Who, JoJo, sweetly played by Kailyn Fetterman) into the world of Seuss… and encouraging a bit of fun and creativity along the way. Vicks’ cat choreography is precise, showing off his long limbs and sharp execution.

Caroline Graham as Mayzie LaBird confidently cha-cha-chas from the jungle to a pampered beach resort. She is buoyed by a trio of birds who add pure, tight harmonies: Julia Link (who doubles as Mrs. Mayor), Carianmax Benitz and Sally Imbriano. Similarly, the Wickersham brothers borrow from early 2000s bad-boyz bands; Christian Montgomery, Stephen Russell Murray (who also plays Mr. Mayor) and Jimmy Bartlebaugh (also playing the Grinch and Judge Yertle the Turtle) work well together with strong voices and brawny moves. Tori Gomez has an exceptionally strong voice, belting the many complaints and busybody observations of The Sour Kangaroo.

It is Horton the Elephant (Michael Innocenti) and Gertrude McFuzz (Sarah Chapin) who anchor the show and give it heart and depth. They are well paired. McFuzz is besotted – a little goofy, a little scattered, a little insecure of her one-feather tail, but always kind and effervescent. We cheer for her. Chapin demands attention on the stage with her excellent timing, wry delivery and charm. Her “Love Song for Horton” is a stand-out and we believe her when she sings: I was hooked from the start/When I noticed your kind/And your powerful heart.

Innocenti’s Horton is so steady and loyal. He recognizes that he is different but unwaveringly defends his choices. In a play with so much color and so much action, it is Horton’s quiet nature that stands out. Innocenti uses his facial expressions and takes strategic pauses to reel us in. His “Alone in the Universe” duet with Fetterman’s JoJo is especially poignant.

The production elements are first rate. Set designer Josh Sticklin created a multi-tiered set of primary colors featuring classic Seuss trees. A sphere in the middle helps us see the citizens on the speck that is the tiniest planet in the sky. A familiar Cat in the Hat red and white striped tube is a central motif.

Lighting designer Jason Arnold washes the stage with stripes of primary colors and shifting scenes from the Jungle of Nool to the busy Who speck. Cindy Landrum Jacobs designed the properties and is the set dressing designer. Alison Samantha Johnson and Janine Sunday, co-costume designers, bring us a palette of bright colors, bold stripes, and fun animal motifs. From the young kangaroo in Sour Kangaroo’s pouch, to the Wickersham brothers’ chains and sneakers, to Gertrude’s glorious new tail, the costumes deliver great color and fun.

The Whoville Orchestra, an on-stage band of six performers, ably move us through 28 songs in 75 minutes from a small wedge in the corner of the stage. The sound is full and fun.

The Keegan Theatre’s production of SEUSSICAL is a co-production with Keegan PLAY-RAH-KA, its brand for younger audiences and families. SEUSSICAL is a great summer option for theatregoers of all ages.