Regional Reviews: Phoenix
Conceived by Monty Python's Eric Idle and the songwriting team of Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty, Seussical uses the well-known characters of several of Theodore Geisel's books. The trio interweave The Cat in the Hat, Horton the Elephant and even the Grinch into a fun show with enough plot to keep older audience members interested, but easy enough for younger theatergoers to still have an enjoyable time. The show features a fun and varied score, with music by Flaherty and humorous lyrics by Ahrens that play off Seuss' famous rhymes.
Narrated by The Cat in the Hat, the musical mainly follows Horton the elephant and the adventures he has. His journey begins when he hears voices coming from a speck of dust, which he discovers are a group of people called Whos. No one believes Horton but he decides to protect the Whos as best as he can. One of the Whos, a young boy named Jojo, struggles to find his place amongst the Who society, while Gertrude McFuzz, a bird with only one feather on her tail, tries to get Horton's attention since she is in love with him. The three characters have mishaps and adventures as they seek to find their place in the world.
The GCU cast was good in bringing the many beloved literary characters to life. Ryan Usher had a perfect sense of playfulness and mischief as The Cat in the Hat while Preston MacDonald projected a huge level of compassion as Horton. As Jojo, Bri HaNguyen brought a light-hearted spirit. The duet of "Alone in the Universe" that MacDonald and Ha-Nguyen shared was beautiful and moving.
Devaune Bohall was simply lovely as Gertrude McFuzz and Tarnim Bybee brought a superb singing voice and fun sensibility to Mayzie, a bird who tricks Horton into sitting on her egg to keep it warm while she goes on vacation. As Jojo's parents, Caleb Heithoff and Kaitlyn Johnson were stern, yet loving, and Fernando Ruiz was appropriately rigid as the General who oversees the military school that Jojo is sent to. Becky Vice brought plenty of sass and swagger to the Sour Kangaroo who doubts Horton's belief in the Whos.
Director Michael Kary instilled the production with the playfulness and sense of imagination that are a major component of the Seuss books. Kary also ensured that his cast was up to the task of making their parts unique but seemingly all part of the same universe. While not everyone in the cast had a stellar singing voice they all sounded good thanks to music director Mark Feary. The choreography by Samantha Brown was upbeat and varied, yet simple enough for the large cast to navigate. William H. Symington's set was stellar, full of the crazy angles, strange shapes, and wild colors just like the drawings in the Seuss books. Nola Yergen's beautiful costume designs were on par creatively with the set design and played off the imagination aspect of the books.
GCU's production of Seussical showed once again how great their theatre program is and how talented the students are at delivering a range of acting styles and types of plays. Full of wit, imagination, and a big heart, Seussical at GCU was a crowd pleasing hit.
Seussical at Grand Canyon University's Ethington Theatre ran April 1st through April 10th, 2016. The theatre is located at 3300 W. Camelback Road in Phoenix and ticket and performance information can be found at www.gcu.edu/Upcoming-Events/The-Arts.php or by calling (602) 639-8880
Director: Michael Kary