SEUSSICAL (theatre for young audiences version)
book by Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty based on the works of Dr Seuss lyrics by Lynn Ahrens music by Stephen Flaherty.
Arts Theatre 6-7 Great Newport Street WC2H 7JB To 5 January 2014.
Runs 1hr 15min No interval.
TICKETS: 020 7836 8463.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 2 December.
Bright, breezy and loud in colours and sound.
American cartoonist Dr Seuss ( Theodor Geisel) acquired a steadily growing reputation as a children’s writer through the middle decades of the last century, and its from some of his works, with their educatively-graduated vocabularies and pictorial possibilities, that this version of Stephen Flaherty and Lynn Ahrens’ musical comes to spend Christmas and New Year at London’s Arts Theatre.
There’s no doubt about the stories’ entertainment value – plenty of animals and adventures – nor the stories’ morality. After Seuss’s bright-mannered Cat in the Hat has popped into view from behind a volume featuring him on the family bookshelves, his master-of-ceremonies role introduces the more plodding but utterly reliable Horton.
Being an elephant, something thankfully suggested rather than taken to trunk-length detail in costume, doesn’t prevent Horton protecting a mini-planet of little people, in a world the size of a speck of dust.
When the wicked Wickersham monkeys cast this away it takes the complementary ability of the avian Gertrude McFuzz to fly around and find the missing planet. By this stage Gertrude has overcome her fashion-victim status, which saw her acquire magnificent but inappropriate tail-feathers, and has found truer values behind her spectacles.
It can seem harder to believe in yourself than to find value in others. Only someone like resplendent Mayzie La Bird, flamingly seductive in her eye-catching red dress, has no problem with self-confidence. She is, in fact, utterly selfish, leaving Horton to mind her nest and its egg, resulting in an unexpected gain for him. In that she’s kin to the unthinking cheeky monkeys.
Though it’s hard to find anyone truly unlikeable when they all have a song or a dance – or both. Flaherty’s music is generally upbeat, hardly memorable but lively enough while it’s happening, and Ahrens’ lyrics – when they can be deciphered amidst the amplified voices – fit it well.
Kirk Jameson’s production is deft and well-paced. The piece doesn’t have the sense of discovery or the audience being invited to participate in the journey, as opposed to sitting receptively and be impressed. Which they may well be by the glossy professionalism and energy on stage.
Horton the Elephant: Ste Clough.
The Cat in the Hat: Elliott Fitzpatrick.
Jojo: Jordan Veloso.
Gertrude McFuzz: Kirsty Marie Ayers.
Mayzie La Bird: Jessica Parker.
The Sour Kangaroo: Shekinah McFarlane.
Wickersham/Mr Mayor: Benjamin V8ivian-Jones.
Bird Girl/Mrs Mayor: Tanya Shields.
Wickersham: Thomas Lloyd.
Wickersham: Alastair Crosswell.
Bird Girl: Jennifer Low.
Bird Girl: Amy Punter.
Director: Kirk Jameson.
Designer: Richard Evans.
Lighting: Tom Boucher.
Sound: Chris Bogg.
Musical Director: George Bryan.
Choreographer: Racky Plews.
Assistant director: Benjamin Brook.
Assistant designers: Natasha Dilworth, Isabella van Braeckel, Sorcha Corcoran.