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BWW Review: DR. SEUSS'S THE LORAX, Old Vic

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Dr. Suess's The LoraxAfter a successful run in 2015/16, leading to an Olivier Award nomination, David Greig's stage adaptation of the Dr. Seuss tale is back at the Old Vic for a three-week run prior to a North American tour. Music and lyrics come from singer-songwriter Charlie Fink (recently seen at the same theatre with his own show, Cover My Tracks), with direction from Max Webster and choreography from the irrepressible Drew McOnie.

Dr. Suess's The LoraxThe Once-ler lives and works with his family, but has never quite managed to fit in. When his dreams become too much for them, his family send him on his way with as much as they can spare: not much more than an axe, some knitting needles and an old cuddly toy.

Coming to rest after a long day of cycling, the Once-ler chances upon some colourful tuft from a tree and decides to knit it. He realises that he doesn't have enough, so chops down another tree in order to harvest some more - and comes face-to-face with an angry, moustachioed creature called The Lorax!

He tries to teach the Once-ler the value of an eco-friendly life, but when someone buys the knitted item (hastily named a "thneed") he can't resist the idea of a wealthy and comfortable life. But as his industry "biggers" the newly created town, it is the environment that suffers. Will he listen to the Lorax and see past his greed?

It is interesting to note that, since its last performance in January 2016, the show has undergone some fairly significant development and come back even better than before. As only four of the original cast have reprised their roles, having new material to work with must have allowed this company to put their own stamp on it. The result is that this production fits them as snugly as a thneed, and the show as a whole is more streamlined.

One highlight, as ever, is Charlie Fink's original compositions. They aren't simply earworms, but songs full of substance making up a score that showcases a variety of genres, packed with rhymes to twist any tongue. From the pop-infused "Thneed 2.0" to echoes of Fink's hero Bob Dylan in a protest song (with the Lorax on banjo), it is a delight from start to finish - and cries out for a cast recording to be added to the Old Vic's collection.

Rob Howell's set design gives an explosion of colour after the grey, drab, tree-less world we first see. Add to that a whole host of expertly mastered puppet creatures (the Swomee Swans swooping over the front few rows always draws gasps of awe) and some eye-popping choreography from Drew McOnie, and you're onto a winner - you can't argue with a breakdancing banana, can you?

Not only does David Greig's script nearly always rhyme, flowing freely from each actor's mouth, but it also manages to efficiently tell a story. Under Max Webster's direction, the production is smooth and seamless; not a word nor space is wasted.

Simon Paisley Day returns as the likeable, but oh-so greedy, Once-ler. He is full of youthful vigour as the Once-ler sets out to "make it big, biggety-big", then infected by arrogance as thneed factories take over the countryside - but ends up a broken man as the last tree is felled.

Voicing and co-puppeteer of the Lorax is David Ricardo-Pearce. He brings a surprising amount of gravitas to the eponymous creature, though still retains a terrific sense of fun - and there is some excellent moustache work going on! The pair make an entertaining, as well as educational, double act.

So if you're on half-term and the kids are starting to squirm, there can be no better idea than a trip to the Old Vic - and don't fear, the show's quick. It's full of fun, and toe-tapping songs; it'll make you laugh, and want to sing along. The colourful set will inspire and delight - what better way to spend a dark autumn night? But blink and you'll miss him, so before he starts to make tracks, there's just enough time for you to catch the Lorax.

The Lorax is at the Old Vic until 5 November

Picture credit: Manuel Harlan


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