Monday, February 4, 2013

Seussical—Northwest Children’s Theatre—NW Portland

The Seuss that Dreams are made on

Seussical, the musical, based on the stories of Dr. Seuss, is playing at the NWCT until March 3rd.  It is written by Stephen Flaherty, Lynn Ahrens and Eric Idle (of Monty Python fame) and directed by Sarah Jane Hardy (NWCT’s Artistic Director).  Musical direction is by Ezra Weiss and choreography by Elizabeth Gibbs.  The theatre is located at 1819 NW Everett St. (and best get there early, as parking, in that part of town, can be a challenge).  For further information on this show and their Season contact www.nwcts.org or call 503-222-4480.

I have two words that will sum up my review of this show:  Simply Seuss-Sational!  The whole production works with nary a weak moment or cast member.  The dancing (Ms. Gibbs), the music (Mr. Weiss), direction (Ms. Hardy) and set changes, keep the play flowing at an agreeable pace.  If you are in a sour mood when you enter the theatre, this show will not fail to sweeten your disposition as you leave it.  Kudos to all!

The play is based on at least two of his stories, Horton Hears A Who and (I believe) Horton Lays An Egg, with perhaps his most famous creature, Cat-In-The-Hat (John Ellingson), thrown in as a Narrator/Chameleon type of character.  These stories don’t have a seamless connection but work well enough to create the play.  And the music/songs tie them together even tighter.

The first story has to do with Horton (Lucas Welsh), an elephant, who believes he has discovered an entire world on the tip of a clover.  Of course, it’s invisible and only Horton hears their voices, so the rest of the jungle mocks him.  Meanwhile the residents of this wee world, Whoville, need a safe place to settle their town (the clover) in the universe or they may be destroyed.  Thus it becomes Horton’s mission to save this world, and his reputation.

The other story has to do with Mayzie (Jenny Bunce), a bird-girl with a little too much plumage on the tail end and not enough in the brain end.  Needless to say, her wild ways of life, find herself with egg, and now has to lie on her own nest.  But she longs for the crazy days of her youth and cons the naïve Horton into keeping the egg warm. 

The couple of hours she says she will gone, turns into several months.  But the dutiful elephant stays the course and the end result when the baby hatches…no, I won’t be a spoiler and reveal what evolves.  Let’s just say that story has an ironic but satisfying ending on a couple of fronts.

As said, the performances are all first-rate.  The Cat, Mr. Ellingson, is a bundle of energy and is especially effective in his chameleon roles.  His sidekick, JoJo (Henry Martin) is equally good and offers the child’s point of view, important for the Seuss’s stories.  And their nemesis, the Sour Kangaroo (Athena Patterson), has a knockout voice and delivery that makes you cheer, even if it is for the wrong side.

Ms. Bunce, the wayward bird brain, is amazing in her singing and acting.  She commands attention whenever she’s onstage.  And Gertrude (Kelly Stewart) as the bird with only one tail feather and Horton’s one, true flame, almost steals the show.  She is extraordinary as a performer and one can easily fall for her and identify with her plight.  All too familiar for those of us who have experienced unrequited love.

And Mr. Welsh, as Horton, is a delight.  He is the dominant character in the show, so must be top-notch in his delivery, and he is.  Again, a universal-type of individual, in which we can all identify.  Mr. Welsh is perfect as this person and it would be impossible for anyone else to fill those gigantic shoes…er, feet.

The costumes are marvelous, especially since they don’t overpower the actor.  They give the suggestion of character without being intrusive.  And they are very colorful, as are the set (kollodi) and prop pieces.  Good use is made of the swing at the beginning of the show.  The dancing fish, bedecked with neon lights, is one of the best numbers of the play.  And the songs aplenty, support the story.

As iterated, everything works, as does the message of the story.  “A Person’s a Person, no matter how small.”  Seuss’s view of the world, perhaps, as seen through the eyes of a child.  May we all never forget the wonders and magic of childhood! 
If Intolerance is the illness,
This may be the cure: 
Walk the shoes of the young,
And experience the Pure.

I highly recommend this show.  If you do go, tell the Dennis sent you.