Seussical the Musical

September 10, 2016 | By | 2 Replies More

★★★☆☆   Wordy up

Church Hill Theatre: Wed 7 – Sat 10 Sept 2016
Review by Thom Dibdin

Solidly entertaining if a little unfettered around the edges, LYAMC’s take on Seussical the Musical gets the tunes humming around the head and acrobatics sweeping across the stage.

Based on a host of Dr Seuss books and characters, this is mainly the story of Horton the Elephant who discovers a tiny world floating on a speck of dust, then gets conned by the outrageously-plumed Mayzie bird into incubating her egg.

Maya Finlayson (Gertrude McFuzz) and Cameron Kilgore (Horton). Photo: LYAMC

Maya Finlayson (Gertrude McFuzz) and Cameron Kilgore (Horton). Photo: LYAMC

It is all told, as it could only be, but the Cat in the Hat – fancy that – who acts as MC, narrator, chorus and all-round instigator of plot development, as Horton discovers that the planet is Whoville and he can talk to a small boy there called Jojo.

James Rennie has just about enough insouciance as the Cat in the Hat. A tall, gangly figure his famously crumpled hat feels like a proper extension of his being, rather than the sartorial afterthought it sometimes is. And Rennie excels in his physical performance, jumping between characters, driving the story on with great wit and allowing the fact that he does really care to peek through the veneer of indifference.

The company needs such drive, as both Corin Wake as Jojo and Cameron Kilgore as Horton the Elephant create very neutral characters. Both have excellent voices and ensure that their duets are some of the quiet highlights of the show, but both are characters to whom things seems to happen, rather than dynamic forces.

In Horton’s case the things that happen are the two birds of his life. Isis Hainsworth puts in a brilliant turn as Mayzie – big, bold and brassy as she struts around. Here is vanity and disregard for anyone else write large in a constantly watchable performance.

dynamic

Fluttering out from under her reticence and regret at her single, uninspired tail feather is Maya Finlayson’s Gertrude McFuzz. Finlayson creates the most satisfyingly complete character in the production: troubled, wanting more and misguided but ultimately heroic. What’s more she has a voice that is mature beyond her age.

The Bad Girl Chorus. Photo LYAMC

The Bad Girl Chorus. Photo LYAMC

Jojo is slightly more dynamic. He wants to use his imagination and think some serious thinks, much to the alarm of his parents – David Allan and Abigail McAdam as Mr and Mrs Mayor. Who send him away to practical “school”, which turns out to be the army.

There are solid turns from Allan and McAdam, particularly on the vocal front, but director Susan French has focussed less on the strand of life on Who and its military events than she might. As a consequence there is plenty of room for further development of their characters and physical comedy which would point up the lack of imagination on their part.

The real dynamic here, however, comes from the huge choruses of dancers and singers – there are a total of 67 performers on stage. In this regard French, her assistant director Marc Mackinnon and her choreographer Fiona Jackson, have done an excellent job.

Jackson has brought good movement to the whole company, despite a few youngsters whose stage awareness has yet to develop as it might. But it is in the small groups of dancers – the Bad Girls who act as a chorus for Mayzie, and notably the circus troupe when Horton is captured – that the real talent shines.

clever word play

As you might expect from something based on the clever word play, hidden rhythms and internal rhymes of Dr Seuss, this is a very wordy kind of a musical. Not so much in the script, but in the lyrics, which introduce Horton’s Jungle of Nool and the world of Whoville with its internal conflict and state of war.

As such, there needs to be a lot more attention to the crispness of the words and the balance between stage and pit. Beth Wood and Thea Mason make a great little-and-large double act as the Sour Kangeroo and her Little Kangeroo, but it is not always easy to make out what they are actually saying, particularly when they are backed by the full chorus.

And while James McCutcheon has done a great job in bringing his band together – there are some truly hilarious moments of emphasis from the pit – he is not always as able to keep them as quiet as they might be. Which, when you have such a young company (the oldest person on stage is just 17), means that the vocals can become lost.

That said, the Lothian Youth Arts and Musicals Company has brought its customary bright and breezy opening to the Autumn season.

Running time 2 hours 5 minutes (including one interval)
Church Hill Theatre, 33a Morningside Road, EH10 4DR
Wednesday 7 – Saturday 10 September 2016
Evenings: 7.30pm; Matinee Sat: 2.30 pm
Full details and tickets from event facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/events/541876046005093/

ENDS

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  1. LYAMC seek AD : All Edinburgh Theatre.com | December 20, 2017
  2. LYAMC Auditions 2018 : All Edinburgh Theatre.com | January 10, 2018

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