Imagine how excited I was. For the first time in my life, the baseball World Series was being played in Washington DC. On top of that, it is rookie left fielder Juan Soto’s 21st birthday. But, best of all, I was about to see ‘Seussical’ the beloved Dr. Seuss musical! To borrow a phrase from the opening number: “Oh the thinks I could think!”
This musical by Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty is a mashup of many of Dr. Seuss’ most popular stories. The entire cast began the show joyfully cavorting about to the incredible choreography by Colleen Prior and the direction of Lee Michelle Rosenthal.
The set, designed by Maggie Modig and her team (Deeann Klingner, Nancy Carlin, Reina Williamson, Catie Taylor, Ellen Rosenthal, David Hegwood, Neal Rosenthal, Steven Magenheim and Katie Klingner), stretches across the entire stage in vivid primary colors under a banner of colossal flower blooms. The occasional appearance of the tree and nest which belong to bad bird Mayzie (played by Catie Taylor) is a prime example of Modig’s talent in bringing imagination to life. Everything inanimate is treated with special flair & highlighted by the set and properties crew of Cathy Kieserman, Sonya Tavitian, Crystal Taylor, Nancy Carlin, and Sherry Singer.
All the characters exist in the mind of young JoJo played by (Annabel Kotek or Imani Corbin, depending on the performance) who is regularly admonished to “Think less Thinks” due to all the trouble he creates. JoJo’s imaginary friend and all-time instigator The Cat in the Hat (Michael Page) lurks in and out of JoJo’s “Thinks” with complete abandon. JoJo’s parents Mr. and Mrs. Mayor (Ray Essick & Jenny Gleason) are at their wit’s end. They even contemplate sending poor JoJo to the military to serve under General Schmitz (Bob Schwartz).
I was giddy at the gyrations of Thing 1 (Jessica Stahl) and Thing 2 (Jordan Daugherty) as they mimicked and mocked everyone onstage. Their makeup by Geri Mccarthy, wigs by Ellen Rosenthal, Malca Giblin, and Maureen Roult, and costumes by Ginger Ager and all the outfits were over-the-top recreations of their print origins.
William Lewis delivers an adorable performance as the gentle Horton, whose discovery of an infinitesimal “Who” world on a speck of dust confuses and infuriates everyone except the lovely and talented Gertrude McFuzz (Lauren Downing) who is ashamed of her ‘One feather tail’ and longs to be noticed by Horton. A trio of Bird Girls #1, #2 and #3 (Lilly Collier, Julia Donato & Lauren Lerner-Naft) delights the audience in every appearance, with the bird in purple adding a twinge of sultry sass just for fun.
Sour Kangaroo played by Courtney James vamps through Horton’s circumstance with the constant support of Young Kangaroo (Elena Schwartz), both sporting tremendous voices.
Nobody actually believes Horton hears the Who and it seems everyone wants to put him away in a looney bin that may actually be the home of the Wickersham brothers #1, #2 and #3 (Chad Rabago, Kurtis Carter, Kyle Sprankle) who bound about as perfect primate antagonists.
The Grinch (Chris Deriquito) belt out ‘Here on Who’ and ‘The Who’s Christmas Pageant’. Yertl (Alexander Roth) presides over Horton’s trial and the evil vulture Vlad (Sonie Mathew) menaces the ensemble as he swoops on and off stage.
The entire ensemble (Ella Fielding, Moukdahahn Southivong, Isabelle Olivos-Glander, Meredith Abramson, Anna Legrady, Deeann Klingner, Jennifer Willard, Kiana Goetze, Margot Buehler, Malaak McDonald, Nina Lingan, Willow Singleton, Sammy Shay, James Donohue & Daniella Martinez) fills the stage and swells the chorus much to the delight of the audience.
The music from the pit in front of the Fitz’ stage was clear as a bell under conductor and music director Sam Weich (On occasion, the music overpowered the many strong voices on stage.) Special thanks to the talented and enthusiastic Seussical Orchestra (Stuart Weich, Julius Veroza, Keith Tittermary, Jeremy Keaton, Audrey Chang, Catherine Hammes, Amanda McCurry, Rose Weich, Paul Weiss, Steve Ward, Rick Peralta, Eric Oganesoff, Jake Gunter and George Huttlin).
Behind the scenes, much of the perceived magic was thanks to lighting designer Andrew Dodge – I loved the ghost of JoJo effect. Sound Designer Sarah Katz handled the audio.
I recommend you bring the whole family to see Seussical no matter Who wins the World Series!
Running Time: Two hours, plus one 15 minute intermission.
Seussical The Musical plays November 1, 2, 8, & 9 at 8 pm and November 3 and 10 at 2 pm at the F. Scott Fitzgerald Theater Rockville Civic Center – 603 Edmonston Drive in Rockville, MD. For tickets, call the box office at (240) 314-8690 or go online.