BWW Review: SEUSSICAL JR at Casa Manana
Since 2010, SEUSSICAL (which appeared on Broadway for six months in 2000) has been listed as one of the top five musicals most frequently performed in the United States. By the time I entered Casa Manana's auditorium last weekend to see SEUSSICAL JR (a version that has been shortened for younger attention spans), it took both hands to count the number of times I personally had seen the show. Luckily for me, this version of the show is packed with some of DFW's top professional talent, and a handful of the most skilled "Casa Kids" rounding out the talented ensemble.
Director and Choreographer Jeremy Dumont has masterfully structured the piece to allow the show's best moments to shine. Not a minute goes by that the audience isn't hypnotized by the bright color and imaginative staging that fills the auditorium. Whether the cast is inviting us into the Jungle of Nool or underwater in McElliot's Pool, Dumont's creative approach is exciting, convincing and unique.
Not only did Dumont direct the magic onstage, he guides it in the spotlight, too. As The Cat In The Hat, Dumont commands the stage with his charismatic and playful mannerisms. When he leads the company in numbers like "Oh, The Things You Can Think," Dumont's childlike energy is simply contagious. His slick sense of timing and spirited dance moves make him a perfect fit for the infamous, unpredictable ringleader.
Leading the story of Horton the Elephant is Patrick Clanton. Clanton's rich vocal are perhaps underutilized as Horton, but he delivers a warm performance that leaves a lasting impression. His duet with young Stephen Newton (Jojo), "Alone in the Universe," is perhaps the sweetest moment in the show.
Laura Wetsel plays Gertrude McFuzz, the bird with a one-feathered tail and two eyes on the elephant. Any moment Wetsel is onstage, the audience is in for a delight. Despite her self-proclaimed "pitiful tweet," Wetsel's voice is perfectly suited for her charming songs: "The One Feathered Tail of Miss Gertrude McFuzz," "Notice Me Horton," and "Amazing Gertrude." She is well matched by Brett Warner as the sassy Mayzie La Bird. Warner's performance of "Amazing Mayzie" is expertly performed with the help of three appealing Bird Girls (Emma Colwell, Emily Hensley and Camryn Wright). This fierce flock is a joy to watch.
In fact, the full company of Casa's SEUSS deserves considerable praise. Zak Reynolds and Alyssa Gardner are a riot as Mr. and Mrs. Mayor; Kimberly M. Oliver's invincible vocals make her Sour Kangaroo full of sass and soul; Clinton Greenspan, Dawson Holder and Brandon Shreve are a sharp band of Wickersham Brothers. Every Who down in Whoville is downright perfectly cast.
Sally Gardner's musical direction leads the cast to great success. Bob Lavallee's exciting scenery is taken straight from the pages of the Seuss books, and the show flows seamlessly between scenes using his various levels and clever entrances. Costumes by Tammy Spencer, hair/wigs by Catherine Petty-Rogers, and Kyle Igneczi's creative puppet design imaginatively suggest the Seussian characters without ever becoming too literal. My one regret is that, although Samuel Rushen's lighting provides beautiful colors and patterns, it too often leaves the actors' faces in the dark.
Casa Manana's SEUSSICAL JR is the perfect opportunity to introduce new audiences to theatre, and is a real joy for Seuss fans of all ages. Even if you've seen the show once or twice (or a dozen times) before, this lively company is sure to entertain. SEUSSICAL JR runs through May 8th; tickets and more information are available at www.casamanana.org.