Sunday, August 19, 2007

Seussical! The Musical

Entertaining ‘SEUSSICAL! THE MUSICAL’ at Mercury Summer Stock

Pierre-Jacques Brault, the founder and Artistic Director of Mercury Summer Theatre, which is now staging ‘SEUSSICAL! THE MUSICAL,’ has a difficult task. He is working with a company that has a shoe-string budget, performs in a Parma theatre with little stage space, and needs to locate performers and technicians who are willing to spend long rehearsal hours for little or no pay.

In spite of these drawbacks, Brault finds a way to stage audience-pleasing productions. The talented, enthusiastic and ever-smiling Brault, has accomplished this by building a group of loyal disciples who follow the person who, one of his advocates describes as, “The heart and soul of Mercury” and “who I’d do anything for.”

Now, make no grandiose assumptions. Mercury’s productions are not shows that compare with stagings by the area’s professional theatres, but that’s not the mission of Mercury. They want to “serve the community by entertaining, enlightening and celebrating the best of human spirit through art.” And, with all their limitations, they do a nice job.

Mercury’s final production of their 2007 season is ‘SEUSSICAL! THE MUSICAL.’
The show, which is based on the books of Theodor Seuss Geisel, better known as Dr. Seuss, had its debut on Broadway in 2000. During the Broadway run, such luminaries as Rosie O'Donnell and Cathy Rigby played the role of the show’s narrator, The Cat in the Hat.

The play's story is an amalgamation of many of Seuss' most famous books.
The lynch pin of the show is Horton, the sweet and naive elephant, who endeavors to protect the people of Who-ville while sitting on an abandoned bird’s egg.

Lynn Ahrens and Steven Flaherty’s music and lyrics include such delights as “Alone in the Universe,” “Oh, The Thinks You Can Think!” and “It’s Possible.”

Brault’s staging is generally cute and clever. His choreography fits the level of the dancers. The cast, as is the case with most community theatre amateur productions, is uneven.

Daniel Marshall switches personas easily as the Cat In The Hat. Though his singing quality is inconsistent, he is endearing. Dan Dicello, is appealing as the lovable Horton, though he is also erratic in his vocalizations.

Molly Richards is absolutely delightful as Gertrude McFuzz. Her “The One Feather Tail of Miss Gertrude McFuzz” is a show stopper. Kelvette Beacham wailed as Sour Kangaroo.

Noah Weinstein and Annie Hickey were right on as Thing One and Thing Two while Miles Sternfeld had some nice moments as Jojo. Brian Marshall and Danielle Renard were wonderful as the Mayor of Who and the Mayor’s wife.

As is the case when a play is child-appealing, I took a member of my “kid’s reviewing squad” to ‘SEUSSICAL!.’ Eleven year-old Alex Berko gave the show an 8 1/2 on a scale of ten. He loved the comedy elements, but thought the singing was “not as good as it should have been.” He thought the Cat, who was one of his favorites, made every joke work. He loved Gertrude McFuzz and thought Jojo was “really good.” He felt the show started slowly, but said, “I guess they had to tell the audience who everyone was, because not everyone has read the Seuss books, but it did slow things down.” As a musician (he’s a talented pianist), he thought the orchestra sounded a “little tinny.” The show’s messages? “A person’s a person no matter how small” and “we all need someone to believe in.”

CAPSULE JUDGEMENT: Mercury’s ‘SEUSSICAL! THE MUSICAL,’ is a pleasant theatrical experience. Smaller kids may have a little trouble sitting through it as the story doesn’t follow each Seuss tale in order or detail. But, in general, they should do fine and adults will enjoy themselves as well.