Music & Book by Stephen Flaherty
Lyrics & Book by Lynn Ahrens
Co-conceived by Eric Idle & based on the works of Dr Seuss.
Southwark Playhouse, The Large, 77-85 Newington Causeway, London SE1 6BD to 29 December 2018.
Tues – Sat 7.30pm Mat Tues, Sat & Sun 3pm. Extra shows during Christmas week.
Runs 1hr 20 mins No interval.
TICKETS: 020 7207 0234.
Review: William Russell 28 November.
Boundless energy keeps the whole thing jumping
To be blunt this tuppence coloured musical by Flaherty and Ahrens based on the works of Dr Seuss is a bit of a mess. The plot is incomprehensible, at least to a newcomer to the world of Seuss, the songs, while tuneful enough, are saccharine and the lyrics, as so often happens these days, hard to hear through the vocal din despite whatever the sound designer has done.
But the energy – and talent – of the cast save the day as well helped by some brisk choreography by Chris Whittaker and James Tobias’s direction which both ensures it never stops for breath. One may be puzzled by the goings on, but the urge to flee at the interval does not overwhelm, or even rise.
Maybe it is because Dr Seuss is an American writer that his works were never part of my childhood, although his 60 odd books have been published worldwide over the decades. Unlike the world of Oz, however, the world of Seuss passed me by which does not excuse the muddle that Flaherty and Ahrens have come up with. They could have opened doors for the likes of me and they do nothing of the kind. Their book is apparently a melange of story lines and characters from his works. The characters include the Cat in the Hat, Horton the lugubrious elephant, the inhabitants of the smallest planet ever as well as a tiny bird with just one tail feather who learns a lesson that big is not always best. In all fairness the two tiny tots in the audience were enthralled, one at being included in the action and allowed to play a mock piano brought on by the Cat.
As for the messages in the tales, because all fairy tales have morals, the book tub thumps them home relentlessly. There are, however, good things on show including Marc Pickering’s creepy and stylish Cat, Katie Paine as Mayzie La Bird, who, clad in scarlet feathers, delivers her torch song with just the right degree of raunch, and best of all Scott Paige, who has a substantial stage presence and a very good voice, as Horton. It also has a gaily coloured set and some rather nice costumes.
As an alternative to pantomime Seussical, despite that ghastly title, will fill the bill nicely. It is never boring, if frequently puzzling, and the score, while it goes in one ear and out the other, is pleasing enough at the time. I suppose you could say it is a cracker of a show – good to look at but disappointing when opened.
JoJo: Anna Barnes.
Wickersham 3: Rhys Benjamin.
Mr Mayor/Wickersham 2: Adam Dawson.
Bird Girl 2: Marianne Neofitou.
Horton: Scott Paige.
Mayzie La Bird: Katie Paine.
Gertrude: Amy Perry.
Cat in the Hat: Marc Pickering.
Bird Girl 3: Sarah Spence.
Mrs Mayor/ Bird Girl 1: Daisy Steere.
Sour Kangaroo: Ngozi Ugoh.
Director: James Tobias.
Choreographer: Chris Whittaker.
Musical Director: James Doughty.
Set Designer: Justin Williams & Jonny Rust.
Costume Designer: Rachel Cartlidge.
Lighting Designer: Ben Jacobs.
Sound Designer: Nico Menghini.
Production Photography: Adam Trigg.