Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Phoenix

Grand Canyon University
Review by Gil Benbrook | Season Schedule

Also see Gil's reviews of Play It Again, Sam, Smokey Joe's Cafe, The All Night Strut, and Wonderland Wives

Tarnim Bybee (top), Ryan Usher (bottom), and Cast
Photo by Daryl Webb/Grand Canyon University
The cleverly rhyming, imaginary, and fantastical world of the Dr. Seuss children's books was turned into a big Broadway musical back in 2000. While it didn't run long on Broadway, the musical has gone on to find much success across the country, with productions continually presented in schools and regional theatres. Grand Canyon University just closed their production of the musical in a fine production that was colorful and energetic.

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 or by calling (602) 639-8880

Director: Michael Kary
Musical Director: Mark Feary
Choreographer: Samantha Brown
Scenic Designer: William H. Symington
Student Properties Designer: Natalie Ward
Lighting Designer: Claude Pensis
Costume Designer: Nola Yergen
Hair and Makeup Designers: Laynie Nelson
Sound Designer: Stacee Martinez

Jojo: Bri Ha­nguyen
The Cat In The Hat: Ryan Usher
Horton The Elephant: Preston Macdonald
Mayzie Labird: Tarnim Bybee
Gertrude Mcfuzz: Devaune Bohall
Sour Kangaroo: Becky Vice
Mr. Mayor: Caleb Heithoff
Mrs. Mayor: Kaitlyn Johnson
General Schmitz: Fernando Ruiz
Wickersham Brothers: Bennett Wood. Kaleb Burris And Taylor Kortman
Bird Girls Carah Robenalt, Kaylee Atkisson And Laynie Nelson
Ensemble: Trustin Adams, Jordyn Bland, Kit Boyett. Rachel Callahan. Andrew Dell Kristina Capra. Hayden Domenico, Whitney Hammond, Alexander Dubois. Beth Heaton Trevor Penzone, Brenna Keck, Chase Shepard, Jennifer Marcantonio, Ben Tietz Becca Mae Owen, Kathryn Sinclair, Tamika Skaggs, Kayana Sweeney. Briana Thompson Mandy Tompkins. Ashley Wagaman

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