Is this the same show I saw 7½ years ago?
Not really. “Seussical: the Musical,” which the Rose last staged in November 2004, now has a snazzier look and simplified staging to add to a roster of fun actors in key roles, which the show boasted last time as well.
“Seussical,” a pastiche of characters and stories from the popular Dr. Seuss books for children, still feels disjointed in the way it mashes together rhymes and plotlines from “Horton Hears a Who,” “The Grinch Who Stole Christmas,” “Horton Hatches the Egg,” “The Lorax,” “Green Eggs and Ham” and more.
It's not very satisfying if you're looking for sturdy story structure and a smooth dramatic arc.
But for kids who simply love the familiar characters, it's vastly entertaining.
Director Jenny Holcombe focuses her cast on high-energy production numbers, with excellent choreography by Sue Gillespie Booton, and on bringing those classic Seuss characters to life. The show works better than it has a right to, based on the script.
A big plus: Steven Williams' superior scenic and lighting design. Four scrolled arches in bright fluorescent colors frame the stage, each one a bit larger than the one behind it. A double-arched bridge with circular cutouts beneath cuts across diagonally. They provide lots of ways to help a massive cast of 47 get on and off efficiently, in varied and visually interesting ways.
Williams' use of blacklight makes a jazz-hands dance and a one-fish two-fish number very cool to watch as well.
Another plus: a live orchestra of 17, under the baton of music director Kevin Smith, brings extra color to the music, which ranges from boogie to rhumba and soft shoe to jazz, plus more Broadway-sounding ballads and ensemble numbers.
Kevin Ehrhart exudes playful naughtiness as the Cat in the Hat, the show's narrator, who gets young Jojo Who (Kevin Mikuls, in fine voice) in a whole lot of trouble by encouraging him to continue thinking differently.
Other standouts: Mary Carrick as the big-voiced Sour Kangaroo, Brandon Shostack and Samantha Shatley as Jojo's parents, Ryle Smith as the military general who fails to drill the individuality out of Jojo, and Jack Erbs as earnest Horton, who won't abandon the Whos.
A flock of birds worth a nod: Rochelle Pickett as Gertrude McFuzz, a yellow bird with a big crush on Horton; Angela Fick as flighty Mayzie La Bird, who leaves her egg for Horton to hatch; and Katie Smith, Jana Roberts and Wendy Eaton as a backup trio to the two.
Zach Little, Austin Learned and Walter Shatley are also fun as troublemaking, hyperactive monkeys.
Armies of kids playing military cadets, Whos, jungle citizens and more crisply execute their dance moves and look pretty darn cute in Sherri Geerdes' imaginative costumes.
It's great spectacle, and families of small fry will appreciate that it lasts just under two hours, including a generous intermission.
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