Review: ‘Seussical the Musical’ at Charm City Players

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Seussical The Musical opened on March 12, 2016, in the Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Auditorium at Mercy High School for 6 performances only.

If you are not kicking yourself for not finding the time to go, you should be.

Seussical, directed by Stephen Napp, marks the 7th full featured production from Charm City Players Theater Company, and the first of many productions to come, in the gorgeous Weinberg Auditorium. Finally a theater space to allow CCP to continue to grow and out do the norm.

Charm City Players cast of Seussical the Musical. Photo by Mumtaj Ismali.
Charm City Players cast of Seussical the Musical. Photo by Mumtaj Ismali.

From the moment you try parking your car, you get the sense that there is something special going on.

Theater goers are greeted by the friendly box office “characters” and are quickly immersed in all sorts of fun activities for the kids – face painting, picture opportunities, raffles, auctions, etc. Once you find your seat, that’s when a little bit of magic begins.

Seussical is a musical by Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty based on the books of Dr. Seuss (mainly “Horton Hears a Who!,” “Horton Hatches the Egg,” and “Miss Gertrude McFuzz”) that debuted on Broadway in 2000. The play’s story is a rather complex combination of many of Seuss’s most famous books. If you know anything of Dr. Seuss, then you already know the stories you’ll be following through the show.

This version of the show starts even before the curtain opens. Movie goers will appreciate the inventive way audience members are reminded to be quiet during the production, unless they are laughing, clapping or singing along of course.

The performers are a mix of CCP veterans and some refreshing new faces. Right off the bat we meet The Cat In The Hat, played by Joseph Haddad. The Cat serves as the Narrator and MC of the show and the part suits him well. Joseph is new to CCP, but certainly not to theater. His ease at making The Cat come to life is instantly apparent. From singing to dancing to being able to keep the attention of the audience, he entertains from beginning to end.

Then we get to meet the rest of the cast, everyone from The Mayor of Whoville and his wife, well played by Jeff Baker and Christina Napp, who give the adults a little comic relief, to The Grinch himself played by Thomas Ogar.

Though the set is sparse and a little stagnant, its open format is utilized well and it is certainly colorful and appropriate. Out of this storybook, cartoon land emerge several not to be missed performances. Horton The Elephant, played by James Gilbert, is the real star of the show. He is everything you would expect Horton to be – kind, shy, determined and a stage presence that really embodies Horton. James is new to CCP and hopefully we will be seeing more of him. His touching, almost sad rendition of “Alone In The Universe,” along with fellow character JoJo, is the first moment you realize that these actors have put their heart and soul into the performance.

JoJo is played by Logan Dubel. Logan is a veteran of the CCP stage and gets better with each new show opportunity. His clear, strong voice beyond his years compliments every song he sings. From beginning to end, Logan brings life to the ever thinking JoJo.

A character that takes a moment to realize how wonderful they are is Gertrude McFuzz played by Grace Kane. She is a true stand out in this show by Act 2. You just fall in love with her whimsical, almost nerdy character that she easily brings to life. By the time she really struts her stuff in “All For You,” it is clear she has stolen the show.

But not to be out done is Sour Kangaroo played by JacQuan Knox. From the moment she appears on stage she is in command of it. Each well placed, and needed shot of soul in what otherwise would be a cartoon show, JacQuan’s voice is as vibrant and strong as her costume is orange. A real delight that wakes up the show.

James Gilbert as Horton the Elephant. Photo by Mumtaj Ismali.
James Gilbert as Horton the Elephant. Photo by Mumtaj Ismali.

Speaking of costumes, well done! Not too over the top and certainly visually entertaining, the costume department made this show just as fun to watch and experience as it was to listen to. To further prove the performer’s talents go beyond singing and dancing, it should be noted that Hannah Gutin-Creech, made her own Mayzie La Bird costume securing the word for her costume design, as well as her performance, as “Amayzing.”

With 74 actors in the production, Jason Kimmel, a gold mine for CCP, had his work cut out for him. Fortunately, this talented choreographer easily creates choreography that you want to see and teaches well enough to bring out the best in all the characters.

As with even the very best venues, the sound of the orchestra versus the sound of the performer’s microphones at times become their own worst enemy. The new space begs for symphony hall sound quality and with each new show Stephen and his talented production staff will meet that challenge.

The show has several re-occurring melodies that return and return, but with musical direction from Kathryn Weaver, along with Conductor Gregory Lauer, and a full live orchestra, they make the all too familiar melodies something you find yourself humming to as you leave the theater.

In the style of older, classic shows, the first act is noticeably longer and tests the attention span for some of the younger audience members. The pay-off is the shorter, quick to wrap up, second act, with one of the cutest, “wait-for-it” moments ever in live theater! A perfect ending to a well done show.

From the moment you arrive to the moment you leave, CCP has done another outstanding job bringing family friendly theater to life! What a great way to introduce and reinforce positive theater to kids.

Jospeh Haddad as the Cat in the Hat and Hannah Gutin- Creech as Mayzie La Bird. Photo by Mumtaj Ismali.
Jospeh Haddad as the Cat in the Hat and Hannah Gutin- Creech as Mayzie La Bird. Photo by Mumtaj Ismali.

So, you should be kicking yourself for missing this latest installment of CCP’s successful theater vision. But you can redeem yourself by putting “save the dates” on your calendar for their upcoming shows The Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast to round out the season.

For tickets and more information, go to their newly redesigned website.

E. Lee Nicol.
The review is by E. Lee Nicol.