The well-loved characters from Dr. Seuss cavort and romp across the Berry Center's vast stage, populating it with animals, strange shapes, happy children and some talented performers.
There are some tender moments in this musical extravaganza, but the emphasis is on a circus-like atmosphere, with children -- hordes of them -- hurtling on and off the stage. I especially liked the Wickersham Brothers, a tribe of monkeys with energy to spare, and the bird girls, led by Janessa Zech as Mayzie La Bird, who were colorful and vain, and can be seductive when called for. The star, of course, is the Cat in the Hat, here portrayed by Raegan Roberts with a memorable, irrepressible medley of graceful movements and charming, lighthearted style. Natalie Davidson plays JoJo, the young girl touring Dr. Seuss's menagerie, and she lets us share her awe at the wonders. (Mitchell Sink portrays JoJo on alternate performances.)
The costumes are colorful and the cheerful set of cartoon-like drawings is appropriate and fun. "Fun" is the operative word, for high drama and subtle nuance are left in the attic while the children take over the playroom in the basement. The songs emerge in an endless stream, like the reassuring sound of rain on the roof -- I especially enjoyed "It's Possible" -- and, yes, the themes of the songs are as upbeat and positive as any parent could hope for.
With 58 performers onstage, all the talents can't be itemized, but I enjoyed the pair of Things, Thing One (Morgan Montgomery) and Thing Two (Zoe Forde), able companions to the Cat. Bryan Sutton, one of the rare adults, was excellent as General Schmitz. There are several families onstage, some siblings, and some parents and children. Four "McDaniels" helped make the production a success (the mother Debbie and father Troy, and their two children: Gracie and Noah), with Gracie adding her young beauty and talent in a charming plot denouement late in the show.
The music, lyrics and book are by Stephen Flaherty and Lynn Ahrens, and Eric Idle helped with the concept. In a fast-paced production such as this, the team behind the scenes is key, and credit goes to director Joshua Clark, music director Debbie Wylie, choreographer David Porras and costume designer Lindsay Burns. I did have a reservation about Nick Thomas in the important role of Horton the Who, whose smile was perhaps too omnipresent, but it may simply have been that the oversize costume seemed to wear him, rather than the other way around. And it can't be easy wearing a hat that consists of two ample-sized elephant ears, though, I'm happy to report, I've never tried it. Caught up in the spirit of this evening, however, I did purchase a Cat-in-the-Hat hat, and exited wearing it.
Lighthearted fun takes over as much-loved and admired characters leap from the page onto the stage, creating colorful entertainment certain to be enjoyed by children and adults alike.
Seussical the Musical continues through March 11, from HFAC (Houston Family Arts Center) at the Berry Center, 8877 Barker Cypress Rd. For information or ticketing, please call 281-685-6374 or contact www.houstonfac.com.
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