Seussical the Musical
Anything’s PossibleBy Seth Bisen-Hersh
Directed by Frank Galati
Written by Stephen Flaherty and Lynn Ahrens
Starring David Shiner, Kevin Chamberlin, Sharon Wilkins, Michelle Pawk, and Janine LaManna
August 30-September 17
Tues.-Sat. 7:30 p.m., Sun. 6 p.m., matinees Sat. 2 p.m., Sun. 1 p.m.
Colonial Theatre, 106 Boylston St., Boston
Seussical, the newest musical from composer/lyricist team Stephen Flaherty and Lynn Ahrens (best known for Once on this Island, the Tony Award winning musical Ragtime, and the score from the animated film, Anastasia) is now playing at Boston’s Colonial Theatre. Combining elements from at least fourteen of Dr. Seuss’s classics, Flaherty and Ahrens create a cohesive plot filled with incredible rhymes and amazing melodies. Horton the Elephant, the Sour Kangaroo, Mayzie LaBird, Yurtle the Turtle, and many other familiar characters get together to put on a wonderful show.
The story is narrated by the Cat in the Hat. He appears randomly in every scene and makes humorous comments to the audience. Played by David Shiner, the Cat in the Hat delivers tons of jokes throughout the evening. Shiner is an amazing talent. Over the course of the performance he plays a German doctor, a pianist, and an announcer. Shiner has a knack for comical facial expressions. He entertained the audience with silent stand-up after the opening number. And, before Act Two, Shiner climbed all over the first two rows of the theatre. He stole a few purses, pocketed a doll of himself, and played with a balding guy’s hair.
The show is thoroughly and unbelievably enjoyable. The music is danceable, hummable, and quite memorable. The best songs are undoubtedly the ballads “All For You” and “Alone in the Universe.” Also really cute is the Cat in the Hat’s song “How Lucky You Are.” Most of the characters reprise a line from this song before beginning their own songs. The opening number, “Oh, The Thinks You Can Think!” is also very well done. The lyrics throughout the musical seamlessly blend Seuss’s original verse with the couplets involving the musical’s own plot. Only someone who has memorized all of Dr. Seuss’s works would be able to split the original words from the added ones.
Almost all of the performers are wonderful. The standouts are the leads: David Shiner (the Cat in the Hat); Kevin Chamberlin (Horton the Elephant); Michelle Pawk (Mayzie Bird); and Janine LaManna (Gertrude McFuzz). They are all consistently amazing, funny, and poignant at the same time. However, young Andrew Keenan-Bolger, who plays JoJo, is the worst singer in the show. His squeaky little voice sounds way too trained and is too much in falsetto. It would serve the show better to cast someone a little younger, whose voice is not in the middle of changing.
The staging and direction is extremely well done and balanced. The stage is always symmetrical and used to its utmost potential. The choreography, by Kathleen Marshall, is very well done, and very intricate. The more intricate the choreography, the more pleasant and exciting it is for the audience to watch. There was hardly a dull moment.
Technically, the show is also wonderful. The costumes are extraordinarily colorful and exquisite. The only costuming problem is that some of the girls are somewhat scantily dressed at points. This would normally be fine with me, but as this is a children’s show, it seems that maybe they should have been wearing a little more. The lighting is extremely intricate. The sets are big and bright and colorful and also make great use of trap doors. The highlights are the clock at the end intermission, the Thneed factory with spurting steam, and the large, colorful forest. The props are also adorable. These include a funny, huge pair of binoculars, spray bottles to symbolize rain, and the life-sized Thneeds. The final, awesome effect is the abundance of flying that occurs throughout the show.
Thus, Seussical is one of the most enjoyable new Broadway musicals out there. It is great for kids of all ages. There are student rush tickets available an hour before the performance at the box office for only $25. The seats are generally on the side of the balcony, but since the people with non-rush tickets in the next seats must pay $65, it’s well worth it. Getting there about an hour before rush tickets go on sale should give you enough time. I would highly encourage any big kids out there to go and see Seussical before it makes its way to New York!