Review: SEUSSICAL at Theatre Harrisburg

Catch this wonderful, bright, inspiring production through May 12th

By: Apr. 27, 2024
Review: SEUSSICAL at Theatre Harrisburg
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The stories of Dr. Seuss (Theodor Seuss Geisel) have delighted readers since the 1930s. Seuss introduced readers to beloved characters such as the Cat in the Hat, Horton, and the Grinch. In 2000, the musical Seussical, by Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty, premiered on Broadway. In spite of its poor performance on Broadway, Seussical’s high-energy, creative mash-up of Seuss stories has become a favorite of performers and audiences. In the hands of the right director, Seussical is a magical, colorful, meaningful show that will elicit nostalgia in adults and wonder in children, while reminding audiences young and old of important messages, like “it’s possible, anything is possible” and “a person’s a person no matter how small”. Director Matt Spencer is definitely the right director for Seussical. Spencer and his creative team at Theatre Harrisburg, including pit director Mitchell Sensenig-Wilshire, vocal director Ryan Dean Schoening, stage manager Scott Miller, technical director Curtis Mittong, props master Becky Arney, lighting designer Matthew Mitra, and a veritable village of hard-working volunteers, bring this delightful musical to the stage at the Whitaker Center through May 12th.

From the lighting to the colorful costumes to the illustration-style props to the beautiful set to the special effects, every element of this production is creatively and carefully designed to transport the audience into the world of Seuss. Audience members who recall reading the books will see elements from some of their favorites incorporated throughout the production. The pit orchestra led by conductor Mitchell Sensenig-Wilshire (who also gives a cameo appearance as Yertle), features Dave Godshall, Megan Carraher, and Vic Wertz on reeds, PC King and Silvia Perbetsky on trumpets, Bob Yinger on trombone, Erin Stefanic and Sharon Jones on violins, Hope Bowling on cello, Tim Crane on bass, Yang Han and Brad Barkdoll on guitars, Ryan Dean Schoening and Ellen Carnahan on keys, Alison Williams on percussion, and Sara Benson on drums. The musicians do a wonderful job keeping the pace moving and creating the mood for the scene.

The cast features a wonderfully talented kid and teen ensemble that includes Caroline Weber, Sarahann Johnston, Gwyneth Starling Roy, Addison Deats, Helen Tucker, and Audrie Kirkman (who also portrays the beloved Cindy Lou Who). These young actors explode onto the stage with excitement and energy that sparkles in the group numbers, kicking off the show just the right way with “Oh, the Thinks You Can Think”. Robyn Thompson joins the cast as the Grinch and Vlad the Eagle, making the most of these quirky characters. Sofiyah Ibidunni’s Sour Kangaroo is strong and opinionated, and her impressive vocal range and ability to speak and sing as not only Sour Kangaroo but also as the baby kangaroo in her pouch are perfect for the part. Josh Glacken and Sara Burke take on the roles of Mr. and Mrs. Mayor of Who. They interact well with one another while maintaining the “politician” façade. The audience can feel their exasperation with Jojo at the beginning of the story as well as their fear when their speck of dust gets carried off and lost and their devastation when they think Jojo has been killed. Alison Whipple takes the stage as the self-centered, good-time bird Mayzie. Whipple’s stage presence and sultry vocals are just right for this feathered diva. Heather Kalkiewicz, Kaitlyn Perbetsky, Grace Bowmaster, Joel Colvin (who also plays the General), Kyle Hallam, and Francis Dy portray the Bird Girls and Wickersham Brothers. These characters are among this reviewer’s favorites in the show. Their harmonies are spot-on, their acting and dancing are superb, and they light up the stage every time they come on.

Rounding out the cast are Becky Mease as Gertrude, Eric Pope as Horton, Tess Tucker as Jojo, and Andrew Vinton as Cat in the Hat. These actors bring their A-game to this production. Becky Mease is adorable in her role as Gertrude. The audience cannot help but empathize with her as she strives to catch Horton’s attention in “Notice Me, Horton”. Eric Pope’s gorgeous vocals and emotional performance draw the audience into the story so much that everyone becomes completely invested in Horton’s quest to help the people of Who as well as Mayzie’s egg. Tess Tucker’s performance as Jojo is incredible—her clear, precise vocals definitely keep up with the adults in the show, and her duet with Pope’s Horton on “Alone in the Universe” brings the audience to tears. Andrew Vinton is the quintessential Cat in the Hat. Vinton plays the role with the perfect mix of fun, quirkiness, and mischievousness. The way these four actors interact with one another keeps the audience engaged and invested in seeing how the story ends.

Theatre Harrisburg’s production of Seussical is fun, engaging, and inspiring. Audiences of all ages will fall in love with Horton, Cat in the Hat, Gertrude, Jojo, and the rest of the characters. Don’t miss out on this exceptional show! Get your tickets at the button below.


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