Move your Caboosical to CCM’s “Seussical”

Review by Laurel Humes of Seussical the Musical: CCM Musical Theatre

CCM’s Seussical is charming, witty and imaginative – just like the Dr. Seuss children’s books that form the basis of the musical.

Seussical is this season’s first Mainstage Series Production from the musical theatre department of the College-Conservatory of Music, University of Cincinnati. The show pulls out all the stops: Broadway-worthy costumes, lighting, staging and standout performances. All what audiences expect from CCM.

Disappointing, on opening night at least, was the sound. We could not always understand the lyrics or dialogue, which sometimes seemed muddy or badly amplified. The situation improved in the second act.

Seussical primarily draws from two stories starring Horton, the kind-hearted, loyal elephant (“an elephant’s faithful 100%”).

First, Horton discovers and protects the dust speck-sized town of Whoville, which exists on a clover flower. Then, the naïve elephant is conned into sitting on a bird egg so its flamboyant mother, Mayzie, can take a vacation. Meanwhile, Gertrude McFuzz, a plain bird, tries to get Horton’s attention.

There are terrific performances from this trio. Frankie Thams’ Horton is so gentle and low-key that he could be overlooked in the frantic action around him. But Thams gives Horton the right amount of determination in defending the tiny Whos (“a person’s a person, no matter how small”) and his voice shines especially in the song “Solla Sollew” about a magical world.

Emily Royer proves to be a fine comedic actress and singer as Gertrude, unfortunately born with a one-feather tail. Outshined by the other Bird Girls and desperate to attract Horton’s attention, she gets pills and grows a tail so long she can no longer fly. Well, for a while – there is a moral to this story for children and adults.

Bryn Purvis as the dazzling, egocentric bird Mayzie really comes into her own in Act II. Her duet with the Cat in the Hat, “Mayzie in Palm Beach,” is a showstopper of great singing and comedy.

So where is Dr. Seuss’ most famous character, the Cat? Everywhere, although none of the stories are his. In Seussical, the Cat serves as master of ceremonies, walking us through and sometimes inserting himself into the stories. Kevin Chlapecka is superbly smooth and sardonic.

Special mention must go also to Derek Kastner and Marissa Hecker as the hilarious Mr. Mayor and Mrs. Mayor of Whoville.

Of local interest – Seussical composer Stephen Flaherty is a 1982 CCM graduate. He and his longtime lyricist partner also wrote Ragtime, Once on this Island and, most recently, Anastasia.

Seussical continues Oct. 25-29. For ticket information, call 513-556-4183.

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