BWW Review: SEUSSICAL TYA, Raleigh Little Theatre
Raleigh Little Theatre's latest production is the Theatre for Young Audiences version of SEUSSICAL. It's a seventy-five minute version of the show, created specifically for younger audiences to enjoy. The show is based on the works of Dr. Seuss with Cat the Hat serving as the narrator as it follows the story of Horton. It's directed by Kathleen Rudolph, RLT's Associate Education Director who has been part of the RLT education program for 23 years.
The show's music, lyrics, and book are by Stephen Flaherty and Lynn Ahrens. The music isn't super memorable, but it feels appropriate to the Seussian tales presented and is entertaining in the moment. The main plot is based around "Horton Hears a Who!" yet the show draws from over a dozen other Seuss stories. The dialogue is structured like Seuss's books even when it's not taken directly from them.
This version of the show is pared down from the original Broadway production which premiered in 2000. It condenses the show's two-acts into an hour and fifteen minutes which plays without an intermission. It helps simplify the story and makes it more appropriate for younger kids who might struggle to sit through a traditional two and a half hour musical.
The cast is full of performers of all ages from middle school students to adults. Hayden Tyler who plays the Cat in the Hat has a great voice. Hakeem Abdur-Rahim's earnestness is perfect for the role of Horton. Brynna Rosenberg has a lovely voice, making Gertrude's song "Notice Me, Horton" enjoyable and also does a great job at developing the shy, eager to please character.
Gabriele Gavin has a stunning voice and some good comedy skills portraying the Sour Kangaroo. One of the standouts is sixth-grader Maddie Behrens as the precocious Jojo; her singing, dancing, and stage presence were all great.
The design of the show is bright and colorful, in the style of Dr. Seuss's books. The costumes by Jeremy David Clos felt straight off the pages and were paired with crazy colored wigs. The makeup, designed by Ruth Berry, was also impressive, particularly on the Cat in the Hat. The large set, designed by Bob Santaniello, reminded me of the Seuss Landing section of Universal Studios theme park, which is similarly Dr. Seuss themed. The designers did a great job at emerging the audience into the world of these beloved childhood books.
The show has the heartwarming theme of tolerance with Horton noting, "A person is a person no matter how small." While adults might not find it riveting, children certainly will. SEUSSICAL runs in the Cantey V. Sutton Theatre until February 23, with a sensory-friendly performance on February 29.
Photo Credit: Elly McClanahan