CCM captures the Wonder and Whimsy of Dr. Seuss

Review by Shawn Maus of Seussical the Musical: CCM

University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music captures the wonder of  Seussical, The Musical, a musical I have never seen before.

The show is restlessly charming.

Seussical fuses elements from a half-dozen Seuss books — notably “Horton Hears a Who,” in which Horton the Elephant heroically defends the community of Whoville (residing inside a speck on top of a precious clover) from destruction by the other jungle animals, and “Horton Hatches the Egg,” wherein he’s tricked into sitting on a bird’s egg while its mother, Mayzie, takes a “short” break. There’s at least four plot lines — including Horton’s faithfulness to the citizens of Whoville and the egg, the one-sided love of Gertrude McFuzz, and the boy, Jojo ( a misfit who “doesn’t think normal thinks”)  who struggles to find his place in Who society. Through it all wends the Cat in the Hat , who acts as “your host and MC” – acting variously as a narrator, an outside observer, and a devil’s advocate throughout the show, and on several occasions creates conflict and keeps the story moving.

The show’s sets and costumes are bright and colorful under CCM student Erik McCandless’s lighting. Visually, the show is an exuberant recreation of the exaggerated stylings of the Seuss universe. The production brings endless whimsy to the stage through superb costumes, wigs, make-up fully realizing all the favorite characters. The musical numbers run the gamut from Latin beat to lullaby, bouncy Broadway ballad to rhythm and blues with a bit of soul – each delivered with confidence and gusto under musical director CCM student Sam Lewis.

Although the book lacked some cohesion, I was captivated by the score, especially the emotional “Solla Sollew” in Act II. And the “Green Eggs and Ham” as cadence march song sung by the soldiers is especially humorous.  The opening and closing number “Oh, the Thinks You Can Think” is enchanting and a song you will not stop humming as you leave the theatre.

The show really took off from the start with confidence and energy. There were solid performances – acting, dancing and singing from the entire ensemble.

Frankie Thams, as Horton the Elephant,  had a difficult role to carry off since it is so stationary; Thams brings it full circle with a sincerity.  He shines in such numbers as “Alone in the Universe” (a duet with the Who child Jo-Jo, played by Donelvan Thigpen) and the lovely ballad “Notice Me, Horton” (another duet, this time with the charming Emily Royer as the lovesick Gertude McFuzz).  When I read the playbill identifying “The Boy” I was expecting a CCM Prep student.  But Thigpen captured the exuberance and emotion of a “boy” I lost sight that he was a college student.  Bryn Purvis is sexy and funny as Mayzie LaBird.  The Cat in the Hat, portrayed by Kevin Chlapecka was mischievous.  His lithe nimble moves leave no doubt that he’s the true authority on stage.

The College-Conservatory of Music will continue with this show through October 29, 2017.

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