Review – Seussical the Musical

April 5, 2013 | By | Reply More

✭✭✭✭✩  Simple and joyous

Charlie West as the Cat in the Hat in FCT 2013 production of Seussical. Photo © Mark Gorman

Charlie West as the Cat in the Hat. Photo © Mark Gorman

Pleasance Theatre
Wed 3 – Sat 6 April 2013
Review by Thom Dibdin

Crisp and even, Forth Children’s Theatre’s production of Seussical also finds the deeper points of Stephen Flaherty and Lynn Ahrens’ musical based on the works of Dr Seuss.

Led by the ever effervescent Charlie West as the Cat in the Hat, FCT’s 37-strong cast get into the groove of Flaherty’s music, just as you would expect. But it is their making sense of the human side of the tale that marks the simply staged production out.

Here is Horton the Elephant (the suitably stoic Reuben Woolard), a docile and faithful beast who finds a world on a speck of dust and vows to look after its occupants. These are the Whos in general – and in particular the brilliant Eve Thomas-Yates as JoJo the little Who with the big thinks that get her into trouble.

Only Horton’s neighbour Gertrude McFuzz (Harmony Rose-Bremner) – a bird with just one lonely tail feather – believes him. But then she is in love with him and he hasn’t even noticed her, so she’s going to get a whole new tail going, just like her pal Mayzie la Bird (Maya Stewart).

What then unfolds is a tale in which the faithful, those who hold onto what they know to be correct what ever the prevailing opinion, win through. A tale where you can be recognised for your inner goodness rather than the glitzy surface detail. A tale of quiet generosity, told with a swaggering laugh that quite belies the depths of what it really has to say.

Irreverent, groovy and very, very silly
The People VS Horton the Elephant in FCT's 2013 production of Seussical. Photo © Mark Gorman

The People VS Horton the Elephant. Photo © Mark Gorman

It is also a tale of complete nonsensical fantabulousness which picks up crazy word patterns and dances around to them, just because it can – and they sound good. It’s irreverent, groovy and very, very silly.

Under the direction of Alice McNaugher this swings cleanly along, never tarrying too long – although not all the joins between songs and dialogue have been as thought-through as they might.

From the pit – in reality the front three rows of the auditorium – musical director Niall Murray keeps tight control of a neat band. Not always tight enough when it comes to the loud bits, although in the complexities of modern microphone techniques the sound technicians could well have as much responsibility for those moments when the singers are drowned out.

Choreographer Stephanie Henning makes the most of what is, when all 37 of the cast are on stage, a frighteningly small playing area. She has a great time with her small band of Hunches, but still finds space to let the whole company let rip on occasion.

FCT is something of a hotbed for young Edinburgh talent, and there are great performances all the way down the cast.

Moments of loveliness
Tatiana Caiafas, Hayley Scott and Eve Thomas-Yates in FCT 2013 production of Seussical. Photo © Mark Gorman

Tatiana Caiafas, Hayley Scott and Eve Thomas-Yates. Photo © Mark Gorman

Rachel Bell has a fantastic, swinging number as the Sour Kangaroo in Biggest Blame Fool, when the jungle animals all gang up on poor old Horton. Alex Bathe, Gus Harrower and Kieran Wilson bring a sense of viciousness as the Wickersham Brothers – three monkeys who steal Horton’s carefully guarded mote of dust.

Coming on as a female chorus, the three Bird Girls – Tatiana Caiafas, Hayley Scott and Sophie Williams – provide the sweet harmonies as necessary and an extra line of dancers to augment in the Hunches.

On the speck of dust which is Who, Alex Gordon as Mr Mayor and Cailin Campbell as Mrs Mayor give a good impression of parents embarrassed by their child’s overactive imagination. They are strong singing double act, although sending JoJo off to join the military does seem a bit extreme.

As Horton follows his lost world of Who, is conned by Mayzie into sitting on her egg and ends up in a zoo, it is the quintet of main characters who provide the really strong moments.

Reuben Woolard’s duets of Horton with Eve Thomas-Yates’s JoJo and, particularly, Harmony Rose-Bremner’s Gertrude are moments of loveliness. Harmony has a particularly fine voice, full of potential. While Eve is a natural on stage, bounding with energy and bags of natural appeal.

Buy the soundtrack:

Charles West’s Cat in the Hat leaps and cavorts across and around the stage with utter glee. As the prime storyteller, he pops up in all sorts of nefarious roles. Not least duetting with Maya Stewart as the strutting Mayzie La Bird for How Lucky You Are.

A great production which packs a delightfully light touch.

Running time 2 hours.
Pleasance Theatre
Wed 3 – Sat 6 April 2013, 7.30pm (Sat matinee, 2.30pm).
Ticket hotline: 07794 144 372
Details on FCT Website: www.fct.org.uk

ENDS

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