Seussical The Musical.
Based on the stories of Dr Seuss. Music by Stephen Flaherty. Lyrics by Lynn Ahrens. Directed by Wayne Shepherd. Musical Director Susan Davenport. Choreographer Talisha Jackson. Ickle Pickle Productions.
Belconnen Theatre. Until January 25.
Fans of Dr Seuss' quirky rhymes and zany tales will delight in Ickle Pickle's production of Lynn Ahrens' and Stephen Flaherty's musical tribute to the imaginative stories of Theodor Seuss Geisel. Seussical the Musical, with its catchy tunes and unusual Seuss characters has become a favourite of amateur and community theatre companies. Ickle Pickle Productions have wisely chosen the Theatre for Young Audiences version of Seussical the Musical to present a bright and breezy performance, brimming with energy and well- suited to the company's philosophy of encouraging participation and skills development by performers of all ages. The story takes as its central plot line Dr Seuss' popular Horton Hears a Who, the tale of a naive and lovable elephant who discovers the minuscule world of Whoville in a clover and makes it his mission to protect the citizens from danger. Steven Galinec offers an endearing performance as Horton, the gentle, innocent pachyderm, craving friendship in his lonely universe.
Director Wayne Shepherd's set design of storybook proscenium arches, scrawled with Seuss quotes and the leafy Jungle of Nool either side of a centrepiece drawing of Geisel combines the elements of Geisel's prodigious talent as storyteller and illustrator. Colourful, and reminiscent of pop-up books, Shepherd's design captures the fantasy and wackiness of Dr Seuss' world.
In a large and diverse cast of largely amateur performers, it is inevitable that performance abilities will vary. Experienced performer Adam Salter plays the Cat In The Hat, who narrates the story. Salter also cleverly doubles as other characters such as a maniacal doctor and a blustering judge. He lends the production focus and professional elan. He is ably supported by Galinec and the talented Kaitlin Nihill as Jojo. Nihill and Galinec's duet Alone in the Universe is a tender and moving magic moment of the production. Jenny Watson's dorky Gertrude, besotted with the guileless Horton, hits the right note with her character, but, without amplification, lacks the oomph to get the songs across. Musical director Susan Davenport has made the right decision to have the well-drilled cast focus on the many musical numbers in the show and sing to a CD recording of the soundtrack, but, too often, without the backing of a chorus, soloists battle the soundtrack. An exception is Sarah Hull's deep- throated, soul-singing Sour Kangaroo. Musical buffs will easily recognise Flaherty's melodic and hummable influences from the wide world of musical comedy.
Shepherd's instinct for the captivating elements of children's theatre lends this 75-minute version of Seussical the Musical touches of magical charm. The cheeky Wickersham monkeys juggle; black theatre illuminates the glittering world of fish, and bubbles and streamers fill the air. In the hustle and the bustle of Horton's heroic journey there is still pause to reflect on the nature of friendship, loneliness and the need to be loved and accepted. In Seuss' zany couplets lies a moral.
Ickle Pickle Productions has established a strong reputation for entertaining holiday theatre for children. Seussical the Musical is another feather in its hat.
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