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Review: ‘Seussical’ at Greenbelt Arts Center

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Greenbelt Arts Center’s Seussical (The Musical), directed by Jon Gardner, is a magical spectacle.

Bob Gudauskas (Horton the Elephant). Photo by Jon Gardner.

With lyrics and book by Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty, and musical direction by Mac Fancher, Seussical is a family-oriented musical-circus triumph.

The show featured many Dr. Seuss characters and locales like the land of the Whos and the jungle of Nool. Dr. Seuss, aka Theodor Seuss Geisel, who once said “I like nonsense, it wakes up the brain cells,” was never one much for plots, but there was a semblance of one in Seussical, which was co-conceived by Monty Python’s Eric Idle. The story followed Jojo (the talented and delightful Courtney J. Harris), who got caught up in a battle between those who butter their bread side up or side down; meanwhile Horton the Elephant (excellently sang and acted by Bob Gudauskas) was tasked with hatching a magic egg to save the Whos (Jim Pasquale, Marie Nearing, Joanna Andrus, Win Britt, Tiffany Chadwick, Beatrice McNabb, and Anna Shenk-Evans) from the Sour Kangaroo (Mayumi Griffie).

Thrown into this wondrous mix was the Circus McGurkus (Bridget Adams, Heather Babin, Laura Adams, Silas Fishburne, Elizabeth Gardner), who filled the stage with acrobatics, unicycles, and juggling. The McGurks were Circus Coached by Laura Adams. Director Gardner produced this fantastic trailer, featuring the incomparable Stephen P. Yednock as The Cat in the Hat and Harris’ Jojo.

The ensemble opened the show with a blast with “Oh, The Thinks You Can Think.” Yednock’s amazingly good; “How Lucky You Are” was worth the price of admission. A standout star vocalist in the show was Shawday Graves, who was dynamite as the fiery and jazzy Mayzie La Bird in hot numbers like “How Lucky You Are (Reprise – Mayzie on a Nest)”, “Amazing Mayzie”, and “Mayzie in Palm Beach.” With her slinky, burgundy threads, thanks to Costume Designer Susan Neff, Graves slayed all her scenes and cooked them for dinner. I liked Jason Britt’s funky General Genghis Kahn Schmitz and his “I don’t like green eggs and ham” sound-off military chant and dance.

Gudauskas sang wonderfully in “Horton Hears a Who” and “Alone in the Universe.” The Who’s Mayor and his wife, Pasquale and Nearing, were fantastic in “Here on Who”. I loved the Christmas season-apropos Grinch Scene, which featured the excellent Jeffery Lesniak’s vocals in “The Who’s Christmas Pageant.” Jamie Miller, as Gertrude McFuzz, did a good job with “All for You.”

Harris is an emerging child-star who won the audience over in all her scenes. Her reprise of “Alone in the Universe” was spectacular. Yednock proved why he’s one of the best musical theater actors in town. The excellent cast was rounded out by Harper Chadwick who played Young Kangaroo; Amanda Dees, Rachel Pino-Elliott, and Julie Dixon who played Bird Girls; John Carter, Kathleen Marilyn Moors, and Joey Rolandelli who played Wickersham Monkeys; Circus Performers Silas Fishburne, Elizabeth Gardner, and Isabela Martins; Carlin Wells as Elephant Bird (selected performances only); and Findley Holland and Sophie Cooper as the delightful Thing 1 and Thing 2 respectively.

Stephen P. Yednock (The Cat in the Hat) and Courtney Harris (Jojo). Photo by Jon Gardner.

This show makes Gardner one of the hottest directors in the DMV right now. Rikki Howie Lacewell’s choreography stood out in several of the numbers, including “The Military.” I loved the illustrations on large sheets of paper, which changed with the scenes, no doubt designed by Gardner and constructed by Jen Retterer.

Shemika Berry’s superior makeup design was evident especially in the green Grinch makeup she put on Lesniak. The show was pleasing to the ear throughout due to Frank Kayser’s Sound Design. Seussical is an eye-popping, ear-pleasing stage show spectacular. You’ve got one more weekend to stroll on down with your family to the jungle of Nool and the invisible world of the Whos and follow Jojo on her unforgettable adventures.

Running Time: Two hours, with a 15-minute intermission.

Seussical plays through December 18, 2016, at Greenbelt Arts Center – 123 Centerway, in Greenbelt, MD. For tickets, call the box office at (301) 441-8700, or purchase them online.

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