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A CurtainUp Review
By Summer Banks
A "young" (mid-twenties?) boy with a marker opens the show by drawing the Cat in the Hat into existence, who then shuttles him off into the world of Seuss. The plot weaves Horton Hears a Who and Horton Hatches an Egg together with a couple of other Seuss-into-song compositions. While this makes the stories a little convoluted they,re still told with clever exposition, and it,s far less drawn out than the original. It,s Seuss back where he belongs, with children and their imaginations. The design scheme consists of the tools all children could find in their homes— bath poofs, tennis rackets and oven mitts—albeit in surrealistic quantities. Costumes could be taken at random out of any girl,s dress-up closet, although the comically resized leather jackets of the Wickersham Brothers stand out for their bizarre proportions. This recreates the experience of playing Seuss at home with a Truffula tree out of a mop, star-bellied Sneetches out of cactus or whatever. This works fine, except that you eventually realize that it's adults playing with these things on stage. The children in the audience could be home doing this themselves. So it,s the opposite of the traditional "Don,t try this at home." In fact, it,s, "Do this at home, when you think about Seuss"
While this message, like most morals in children,s stories, is a little heavy-handed, it's nice to see something working to get children to use their imaginations, rather than to just sit passively in front of the television. But it,s telling that the children were most engaged when the dream-world-within-a-dream-world of Solla Sollew is created on stage with gigantic props and costumes that actually look like drawings. The budding critic seated behind me had been crying "I don,t like it. . .that,s not an egg, it,s a ball. I want to go back outside" was suddenly quiet. Even I, who replaced Seuss with Harry Potter years ago, was suddenly riveted to the stage when a huge two-person creature wandered on stage 80 minutes into the 90-minute show.
The abbreviated running time may still be a bit too long for the ADD-generation,s attention span, but the non-stop barrage of songs and dance numbers does its best to keep everyone engaged. Each member of the cast makes the material upbeat and catchy, forcibly if necessary.
As the ridiculously lithe and lean Cat in the Hat, Shorey Walker performs with a feline,s sense of comic timing (I,m not exactly sure what that is either, but when you see it you,ll understand). Michael Wartella plays JoJo in precise children,s theater quasi Broadway style and looks, quite fittingly, as if he could have stepped out of Pokemon. Performing exactly as any Broadway starlet should, Kelly Felthous,s Mayzie La Bird is surprisingly talented and likable. Ebony Marshall-Oliver has the production's best moment when her Sour Kangaroo plugs the ears of the stuffed Young Kangaroo in her pouch.
The enthusiasm of the performers is the major reason for this production's success. Their constant willingness to hit a message home and then dance on to the next keeps the still confusing story from getting bogged down, and their tolerance of the homespun-set keeps the children in the realm of the imagination. There,s no irony within blocks of the theater. That's refreshing in itself. In an era of self-aware meta-musicals that spend too much time trying to laugh at themselves it's nice change to listen to a cast just singing, dancing and telling a storyt. And with only one, thankfully short, meta-moment, that,s what this Seussical does. It,s a crazy ride, but well worth the journey for those willing to leaving their New Yorker,s cynicism on the street, where it belongs.
For a review of the Broadway Seussical go here.
Try onlineseats.com for great seats to
The Little Mermaid
Shrek The Musical
Easy-on-the budget super gift for yourself and your musical loving friends. Tons of gorgeous pictures.
Leonard Maltin's 2007 Movie Guide
At This Theater
Leonard Maltin's 2005 Movie Guide