Review: SEUSSICAL THE MUSICAL at the Warner Theatre

By: Aug. 01, 2016

"Oh, the Thinks you can Think, when you think about Seuss!" These are some of the first lyrics heard in the Warner Stage Company's current production of SEUSSICAL THE MUSICAL. And boy, what thinks have been brought to life on the stage in this fresh, fun, and family friendly musical at the Warner Theatre in Torrington.

You would have to be living on another planet not to at least be somewhat familiar with the source material for this show, a collection of some of Dr. Seuss' most iconic stories. And it is truly a thrill to see these beloved characters come to life on the stage. For those not familiar with the musical (by Stephen Flaherty and Lynn Ahrens who also created RAGTIME, ONCE ON THIS ISLAND and many other musicals) it is a mash-up, of sorts, of the stories of Horton the Elephant, Gertrude McFuzz, Jojo the little Who with big thinks and all those that they encounter in their crazy Seuss-fueled adventures. The show also includes favorites like the Grinch and Mayzie La Bird and is narrated by the most iconic of Seuss' creations, The Cat in The Hat. It's a story about being different, believing in yourself, and relying on your imagination to take you to wonderful places, and the cast on stage at the Warner does a great job telling this story.

As I commented on in my review of the spring production of ROCK OF AGES (my first at the Warner), the Warner Stage Company is a community theater company that truly stands out above so many, and SEUSSICAL THE MUSICAL did not disappoint.

As the sad Elephant who protects and vouches for a world no one else can see, Josh Newey brought a perfect mix of vulnerability and determination to the role. Maggie Gillette shined as his pining next-door neighbor, Gertrude McFuzz and was lovely in her lovesick and hopeful songs. Ms. Gillette's goofy, hipster sensibility (loved the Ukulele!) paired well with Mr. Newey's oblivious, buT Loving pachyderm. I was most impressed with Trevor Rinaldi (Jojo) who nailed every one of his songs, acted with skill, and captured the audience with his every scene. For someone so young to be so polished on stage, I can imagine this will not be the last time audiences see him on the stage. Oh the places he will go! Finally, as the beloved Cat in the Hat, Samuel Everett pulled off nicely the goofy characters/costumes and frenetic pace of the role. Other standout performances for me were Mary C. Johnson as the selfish Mayzie La Bird and AlexaRae Campagna as the Sour Kangaroo who showed off her impressive voice and belted every one of her numbers to perfection. The ensemble, which was comprised of actors of all ages did well and truly looked like they were having as much fun as we were watching them.

Bringing these stories to life, the director, Richard McKenna does a great job for his mainstage directorial debut, especially when you consider the size of the cast and the style of show. The sets by Steve Houk were perfectly "Seuss" with the good Dr.'s trademark illustration style brought to life in three dimensions and vivid color. Sharon Wilcox's choreography was fun and energetic, and the costumes by Renee Purdy and Aurora Montenero popped with color and crazy textures, which is exactly what you would expect from these characters. I particularly enjoyed the design for the "hunches" - most creative and visually exciting. Finally, the orchestra conducted by TJ Thompson (who also provided the Musical Direction) was excellent. The lighting design by David Zahacewski fit the style well -the water effect during the bathtub scene, in particular, was a nice touch.

The show wasn't without its bumps (the sound had issues at times (balance with the orchestra and feedback/static) and there was one small wardrobe malfunction with Gertrude's tail, but the cast handled these professionally and it didn't hurt the overall feel of the production.

So, if you are looking for an uplifting, fun and exciting show, SEUSSICAL THE MUSICAL is a great choice. Full of loveable characters, upbeat songs, colorful costumes and a talented cast that brings these beloved stories to life on stage, this is a show for the whole family, even the grinchiest of Grinches.

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SEUSSICAL THE MUSICAL runs at the Warner Theatre in Torrington, CT through August 7th. Tickets can be purchased by calling the Box Office at 860-489-7180 or online at www.warnertheatre.org.

Photo credits: Top and bottom photos by Mandi Martini. Middle photo by Luke Haughwout



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