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Review: SEUSSICAL: THE MUSICAL at Blackfriars Theatre

Review: SEUSSICAL: THE MUSICAL at Blackfriars Theatre

Now on stage through July 31st.

The summer youth productions of Rochester's theatre companies are among my favorite to review, because I'm always reminded of the astounding level of talent across our region's high schools and colleges. In the five-plus years I've been covering theatre in WNY I've seen youth productions of "Newsies", "Something Rotten", "Cabaret", "Jesus Christ Superstar", "The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee", among many others, that would rival anything you would see on a professional stage. Blackfriars Theatre's current production of "Seussical: The Musical"-the 2000 musical written by Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty-can be added to that list of greats.

From Music Theatre International: The Cat in the Hat (Ireland Fernandez-Cosgrove) narrates this story of Horton (Ian Yates), an elephant who discovers a speck of dust that contains the Whos, including Jojo (Mason Morrison), a Who child sent off to military school for thinking too many "thinks." Horton faces a double challenge: not only must he protect the Whos from a world of naysayers and dangers, but he must guard an abandoned egg, left in his care by the irresponsible Mayzie La Bird (Anne Olivia Cincotta). Although Horton faces ridicule, danger, kidnapping and a trial, the intrepid Gertrude McFuzz (Bridget Welch) never loses faith in him. Ultimately, the powers of friendship, loyalty, family and community are challenged and emerge triumphant.

Blackfriars' production of "Seussical" showcases the talents of numerous young performers, from Yates' kind and sensitive Horton to Jade Hill's soulful Sour Kangaroo to the sassy stylings of the Wikersham Brothers (Danny Dobbins, J. Jake Thomas, Avery White). The talents each cast member brings to their individual character are augmented by truly impressive choreography by Lani Toyama Hoskins across the whole cast, particularly during large ensemble numbers like "Amazing Mazie" and "Solla Sollew." The production design of Blackfriars' "Seussical" is also quite jaw-dropping, featuring a dazzling array of colors and Seuss-esque imagery that looks to be pulled right from the timeless author's pages.

It's not hard to imagine why Seussical's truncated Broadway run in the early 2000's was a historic flop, as Resident Dramaturg Eric Evans thoroughly explores in the playbill. As brimming with life and energy as it is, the overall vibe of "Seussical" is a far cry from the crisp chorus lines and overly-produced fare that Broadway audiences want to see after paying top-dollar for a show. By design, "Seussical" is a lot, often feeling like a colorful kaleidoscope of chaos and joy, like someone dumped 50 Dr. Seuss characters into a hat, vigorously shook it up, and tossed the contents onto a stage. Personally, I find that (admittedly messy) aesthetic endearing and engaging, and it's probably why "Seussical" has had such a tremendous second life as a stalwart at high schools, community theatres, and youth performing arts companies; because it's a bit zany, tons of fun, and there's something for everyone. It's also likely that it would have more commercial success were it to find its way back to Broadway today; after all, if "SpongeBob SquarePants: The Broadway Musical" can turn a profit, surely "Seussical" can.

Blackfriars Theatre's production of "Seussical" is a sheer delight, brimming with the energy and joy of countless talented young performers from across our community. It's playing until July 31st, for tickets and more information click here.




From This Author - Colin Fleming-Stumpf

Colin Fleming-Stumpf is a lover of all things theatre and performing arts. A native of Rochester, Colin has acted on stages across Western New York and is active in the local theatre community as a... (read more about this author)


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