Sunday, November 23, 2008

"Seussical the Musical"

As much as I love my many theatre friends, I don't get to see nearly of enough their productions in which I am not already involved. I should see more local theatre, and I try to see the things that interest me. Sadly, much local theatre is not good theatre. Not to say that local theatre isn't good. There are loads of very talented people producing tons of great stuff everywhere. And even bad theatre is better than no theatre at all, I suppose (though I am desperately withholding a Leonard Pinth Garnell joke, for those of you old enough to remember SNL in it's true heydays).
So it is even less often that I see local educational theatre. But, my strong theatrical connection to my Alma Mater (I've probably done more theatre there - both as a student and an alum - than almost anywhere else) and my recent experience directing on the main stage there, made me curious about what other kinds of productions were going on. So tonight, I joined my three best friends (all with similar connections and backgrounds) and saw "Seussical the Musical."
I'm not going to comment on the production itself, other to say it was exceptionally energetic and lovely to look at. There were some fine performances (especially from "Horton," "JoJo" and "Gertrude.") The unit set was functional and appropriate; the costumes brightly colorful and often hilarious. The lighting design was often quite gorgeous and the audience certainly enjoyed themselves.
This rather, is a comment on the show itself. With book, music and lyrics by Stephen Flaherty and Lynn Ahrens (and the apparent involvement of Eric Idle), Seussical is little more than a bastardization of Theodor Geisel's witty and wonderful rhyming children's books. The Cat in the Hat is our guide on a tale that mostly follows the elephant Horton, who both Hears a Who and Hatches an Egg in the show. The songs, while pleasant Broadway pop, are fairly generic. A few, like "Alone in the Universe," "How Lucky You Are," and "Notice Me, Horton," stand out.
My biggest issue with the show, I think, is its very existence. JoJo makes a poor substitute for Cindy Lou Who in convincing the animals of Nool that Who does exist, and beloved characters like Yertle the Turtle and the Lorax are barley mentioned. Shallow, silly and bereft of any of Geisel's wit, I think everyone's time would have been better spent on a stage version of the bizarre, underrated and not-very-well-known Seuss musical from the 50's The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T. If you haven't seen this amazing and weird film you should. And how it missed My Favorite Fantasy Films is a complete mystery, because I just love this film. I'll make it up by doing a whole post just about it. In the meantime, enjoy this:
More of this, anon.

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