BWW Review: SEUSSICAL JR. at Des Moines Young Artists' Theatre: A Magical Evening That Reminds You Of The Power of Theatre and Imagination
If you were to look back on your childhood, one of the first books you probably read was a Dr. Seuss book. The books have become a rite of passage as the stories are passed down from generation to generation. In 2012, I had the pleasure to be involved in a production of a show and this weekend I got to share the show with a new generation by taking my friend's 5-year-old daughter to the show. That show was Des Moines Young Artists' Theatre's (DMYAT) production of "Seussical: Jr." This whimsical production is a reminder to adults about the power of imagination and shows the magic that happens when young artists get to tell stories on stage.
If you aren't familiar with "Seussical," it is a musical that takes the imaginary world of Dr. Seuss and brings some of his most famous stories and characters into one cohesive story on stage. The show starts when we see a kid wander onto the stage where we see a red and white striped hat. The child imagines the amazing things that could be under the hat and imagines it being worn by a cat. Enter the Cat in the Hat who becomes our narrator for the evening. The cat and the child imagine the world of Horton the Elephant who hears a group of people called the Whos, when they fly past on a small spec of dust. When he gets called crazy for thinking a dust speck who speaks, we are introduced to his neighbor Gertrude McFuzz admires Horton but thinks he'll never notice her because she is a bird with a one feathered tail. When we are introduced to the Whos, the child is thrown into the story as Jojo, the child of the Mayor and his wife. We spend the rest of the show seeing the power of imagination as Jojo continues to imagine the amazing stories set up at the top of the show.
One of my favorite parts of the show was seeing the impact being involved had for the students in the show. One of the students that showed this most was Lars Oredson in the role of Vlad Vladikof. While he only had one line in the show, he was in all the big group numbers. He performed as though it was the best thing that ever happened to him. He was into the choreography and had the biggest smile on his face as performing. He was having so much fun that it made the performance even more fun for me as an audience member.
The joy exuding from the stage continues with the amazing performances seen from the full cast. One of my favorite parts of Seussical has always been "Gertrude Mc Fuzz." In this production, Gertrude is played by Greta Paulson. From the moment she came out and angrily strummed either her toy ukulele or out of tune ukulele, I knew we were in for a treat. While she started strong, her performance got stronger as the evening went on. She had the audience in the palm of her hand when she sang "All For You."
One of the fun parts of watching DMYAT shows is seeing young artists start with small roles and grow as actors into leading roles. One of those we've been able to watch this last year is Hunter West taking on the role of everyone's favorite elephant Horton. He brings such a heart to Horton that you feel the pain Horton is feeling when singing "Alone in the Universe" and the longing to have the perfect place to be in "Solla Sollew." Having a young artist share this story brought a layer that an adult never could because the themes are prevalent in their daily lives in ways that I think many adults forget.
The most charismatic character in the show is the narrator of the Cat in the Hat played in DMYAT's production by Ridge Chadley Rutherford. Each time he came onto the stage to take us from one story to the next, he found ways to bring the Cats over the top antics to life. Many of these moments had the audiences in stitches, from fruity drinks and palm leaves to playing the piano to accompany Mazie.
Des Moines Young Artists' Theatre's production of Seussical is one that will not only leave you smiling, but may just remind you of the magic Dr. Seuss stories brought to your childhood. The work that everyone onstage and off brings to this production will make for a memorable performance whether it is your first time seeing a production of "Seussical" or your 100th. If you are looking for something do with your kids this next week I highly recommend seeing this production. "Seussical Jr." runs through November 10.
To find out more about Des Moines Young Artists' Theatre visit https://www.dmyat.org/
To buy tickets for "Seussical Jr." visit https://desmoinesperformingarts.org/events/dmyat/seussical-jr/
Review written by DC Felton
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