When was the last time you really had ‘FUN’ at the theater? If you have to think about it, then run, hop, skip or jump to the landmark “Plummer Auditorium” in Fullerton, California where 3-D Theatricals, Southern California’s Ovation Award Winning Theater Company takes a walk on the whimsical side with their first show of 2015: the charmingly quirky and family-friendly “Seussical—The Musical” starring Cathy Rigby! Based on selections from the enormously popular works of children’s author, Dr. Seuss, “Seussical, The Musical” is equal parts Broadway musical, Big Top circus, rock concert, MGM extravaganza,—and all enchantment. Like your favorite amusement park ride, once the last note ends, 3-D Theatricals’ rip-roaring new production makes you want to run right out and experience it all over again!
Featuring Music by Stephen Flaherity and Lyrics by Lynn Ahrens (who both share credit for also writing the book) the idea was co-conceived by Ahrens, Flaherty and Eric Idle (–the guy from “Monty Python” who would also later score with his musical “Spamalot”!) That the entire enterprise is largely ‘sung through’ with plenty of extended musical sequences interrupted only by very short interjections of all-rhyming dialogue, keeps the happenings flowing from one great melodic escapade into the next. The tales that seem to drive the plot are “Horton Hears A Who”, “Horton Hatches The Egg”, “The Butter Battle Book” and “Gertrude Mc Fuzz”—even the notorious “Grinch” (he, who stole Christmas) makes an appearance! The opening “Oh, The Thinks You Can Think” (taken from the Doctor’s book of the same name) is about as rousing as they come, and sharp-eyed viewers will definitely see many familiar characters from their grade-school book shelves.
Afterward, the story begins “On the 15th of May in the Jungle Of Nool”, at which we’re taken to a lush, sumptuously hued jungle where lives Horton a simple, good-hearted elephant who believes “A person’s a person—no matter how small”. The first act pretty much follows his exploits trying to save the microscopic land of “Whoville” (which exists, we’re told, “in the tiniest planet in the sky” that’s found at the center of a mere speck of dust.) The second, when he’s tricked into sitting on an egg belonging to a vain and lazy bird named “Mazie”. Be prepared for some terrific audience participation after intermission, as the surprises (—and some ingenious ‘mise-en-scènes’–) come fast and furious!
Directed and Choreographed by multi “LA Ovation Award” winner David Engel, who was part of the original Broadway company, he perspicaciously plays to all the book’s strengths, keeping the action going at a near whirlwind pace, which makes those times when things do slow down a bit all the more meaningful. Likewise, his choreography (and there is plenty of it) is expertly based on Broadway’s original staging by Kathleen Marshall. Movement here runs the gamut from 50’s “sock hop” dances to 80’s Hip-Hop; “Choreographer” Engle has found numerous ways to open up and enliven the proceedings through some inspired stepping, and even some remarkable mid-air maneuverings (with the captivating assistance of “Aerial Choreographer” Paul Rubin!) The sets by J. Branson and George Bacon’s costume design (both courtesy of “Music Theatre Witchita”) all effectively conjures up the look and feel of a Dr. Seuss illustration, and all are F-A-N-T-A-S-T-I-C; but it’s the lighting design by Jean-Yves Tessier that truly makes the show come alive with bold, vibrant, colors and some rather amazing lighting effects (particularly in the second act.)
As the celebrated mischief-maker, “The Cat In The Hat”, Cathy Rigby serves as our sprightly host for the evening, popping in and out of all the on-stage undertakings and guiding spectators through the various adventures and misadventure more or less familiar to anyone who recalls Dr. Seuss’s stories. She literally jumps out of the pages of “The Cat In The Hat” book when making her first appearance, proclaiming “Howdy do and hello—I’ll be running the show”! Ms. Rigby also puts her agility and athletic training to exceptional use—as well as her ‘flying’ experience from other shows. According to Director Engel, the unique arraignment of her number “A Day For The Cat In The Hat” seen here was specifically created for the actress when she joined the show as the last “Cat” during its run on the “Great White Way”. Her rendition of it is A-Plus, and it ‘evolves’ (as many of the numbers do) from a simple duet with “Jo-Jo” (the son of the Mayor of “Whoville” whom Horton has befriended) into a huge splashy dance sequence titled “McElligot’s Pool”, in which the chorus executes a brilliant ballet while Rigby herself ‘takes to the air’ with some incredible acrobatic moves of her own–high above the stage! Moreover, her exuberant handling of the second act reprise of “How Lucky You Are” makes for a bouncy pick-me up directly after intermission; throughout, she throws in plenty of clever ‘tricks up her sleeve’ to keep the audience guessing, laughing, and thoroughly enjoying–and she’s just plucky and likable enough to pull them all off and then some!
The pleasant but put upon pachyderm at the center of much of the events, “Horton, The Elephant” is performed by Matthew Downs, who does a sensational job in playing up the ‘quiet hero’ Horton is, portraying him as an all-around nice guy, “Caught between a dust-speck and an incubated egg”, as opposed to a universal ‘schlub’. His lullaby “Solla Sollew” to the newly orphaned egg which he’s been tricked into tending is superbly poignant and well-delivered. Right there by his side (whether he always sees it or not) is Melanie Mockobey, who is a genuine delight as the insecure, but ultimately valiant bird, “Gertrude McFuzz”. What a voice she has too, which is wonderfully displayed in “The One Feather Tale Of Miss Gertrude McFuzz” and “Notice Me Horton”; later, one humongous unwieldy tail lighter (–after she learns that anyone can be ‘pretty’ but real beauty comes from within), she shines with “All For You”. Not to be overlooked either is young Grant Westcott as “Jo-Jo”, the little “Who” who thinks the great big ‘thinks”. Westcott has a voice bona-fide three times his Bantam size and he puts it to excellent use in the service of “Anything Is Possible” and several quieter, but still stirring duets with Horton such as “Alone In The Universe” and his part in “Solla Sollew”.
Amber J. Snead also offers outstanding support as “Sour Kangaroo”—one of Horton’s many detractors in the Jungle Of Nool; she magnificently takes center stage, showcasing her dynamically robust voice early on with “Biggest Blame Fool” (about Horton) and again at the show’s climax, in essence driving “The People Versus Horton The Elephant”. Gregory North is also a real force to be reckoned with as the blustery “General Genghis Kahn Schmitz” whose military Academy “Jo-Jo” is proscribed to. While North doesn’t sing much, he still makes the most of this prime-character role. But, in point of fact, the full ensemble is the primary “Co-Star” in all of these goings-on. As a group, they demonstrate some refined choral work—both during the larger jungle sequences and as the assorted “Who” townsfolk especially. As a dance team, being that the show is 90% song, it also means it’s 90% dance, and in this respect, what a breath-taking bit of artistry they consistently manage to achieve there! All through the show they present some fairly astounding terpsichorean treats, but “Having A Hunch” (wherein “Jo-Jo” discovers that anything really is possible) is one of the most down-right astonishing numbers (containing some dandy examples of ‘show-biz’ razzle-dazzle using their gloved extremities,) you’re likely to see this or any other season! In addition, after the stories are told and the day is won, they throw in a bonus audience-pleaser before the final curtain, this one a jivey jitter-bug singing the praises of that most ‘Seussian” of delicacies, “Green Eggs And Ham”!
From page to stage, this production is guaranteed to bring back a few happy memories for those whose early years these iconic stories were so much a part of, and is precisely what an exciting evening of theater should be. Don’t you deserve a few good smiles? Then come be a kid again and treat yourself (and those you love) to this cotton candy-coated carnival of a show! Having opened February 7th 2015, “Seussical, The Musical” will play weekends through February 22nd, 2015 with show-times on Fridays and Saturdays at 8:00 pm, with Sunday Matinees at 2:00 pm, and added performances on Thursday, February 19th at 8:00 pm and an added Saturday Matinee at 2:00pm on February 21st . “The Plummer Auditorium” is located at 201 E. Chapman Avenue, Fullerton, CA. Subsequently, starting Saturday February 28th, the show moves for an additional six performances to “The Redondo Beach Performing Arts Center” located at 1935 E. Manhattan Blvd. in Redondo Beach, CA. Show-times there are Saturday, February 28th at 8:00 pm, Sunday, March 1st, at 2:00 pm, Friday, March 6th at 8:00 pm, Saturday, March 7 at 2:00 pm and 8:00 pm, with a final Sunday Matinee on March 8th at 2:00 pm. Tickets for both engagements may be obtained by calling 714 589-2770, or by logging onto the “3d Theatrical’s” website located at: www.3dtshows.com. (Special Group and Student discounts are also available.)
Production Stills By Isaac James Creative (www.IsaacJamesCreative.com) Courtesy Of Michael Sterling & Associates (www.msapr.net) and “3-D Theatricals”; Special Thanks To Michael Sterling, T.J. Dawson, Daniel Dawson, Gretchen Dawson, Jeanette Dawson And To The Cast And Crew Of “3-D Theatricals” “Seussical, The Musical” For Making This Story Possible.