The fantastical world of Dr. Seuss exists most completely in our imaginations.
Grinning, hat-wearing cats, microscopic people and soulful elephants populate the surreal landscape. To really get into it, you have to let yourself go. Kids are naturally the target audience for Seuss and will likely have a great experience at the new Music Circus production of “Seussical.” Based mainly on “Horton Hears A Who,” “Horton Hatches An Egg” and “Miss Gertrude McFuzz,” creators Lynn Ahrens (book and lyrics) and Stephen Flaherty (book and music) co-conceived the musical tribute to Seuss with Monty Python’s Eric Idle. The Seuss whimsy and the books’ subtle themes of loyalty and acceptance are all alive and well here.
There’s a lot going on in director Glenn Casale’s vivid production. Even though the thin narrative doesn’t bind it all together, the many parts are extraordinary. John Treacy Egan’s Horton, the stolid, soulful elephant, and Bets Malone’s frustrated Gertrude McFuzz are a wonderfully mismatched pair of charming central characters. Sure, Gertrude’s erstwhile chase of Horton as he doggedly pursues his own quests gives the story a shuffling momentum, but the narrative’s not nearly as important as the colorful spectacle of the Jungle of Nool or the microscopic residents of Whoville.
Jason Graae’s mischievous Cat In the Hat serves as a winking narrator who sets things in motion. The Cat “finds” Joshua Davis in the audience and places him in the story as Jojo, the son of Whoville’s mayor. The endearing young Davis, a longtime performer with El Dorado Musical Theatre, makes a sharp foil for Graae who gleefully skips and mugs through an expansive performance.
Richard Bay has created the playful scenic design with Tim Dugan; Bay also designed a set of clever underused puppets with Kara Ow. Sadly, the puppets, fish and sea creatures only appear in one scene. Bob Richard’s spirited choreography punctuates Ahrens and Flaherty’s lush melodic songs while Kate Bergh’s technicolor costumes match the animated action. Ginifer King has a fine turn as the glamorous irresponsible Mayzie LaBird, and Sharon Wilkins reprises her Broadway-originated role as Sour Kangaroo. The Grinch even makes a cameo appearance.
The large orchestra includes a string quartet, and while conductor Dennis Castellano briefly relinquished leadership of the music group to the Cat, the complex score was strongly played throughout.
Much of what takes place happily defies logic except for Horton’s mantra, “A person’s a person, no matter how small.”
What: The Music Circus production of the show by Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty. With Jason Graae, Sharon Wilkins, John Treacy Egan, Ginifer King and Bets Malone. Glenn Casale directs, Bob Richard choreographs, with puppets and set design by Richard Bay.
When: 7:30 p.m. July 15-16; also 2 p.m. Saturday, July 16; and 3 p.m. Sunday, July 17
Where: Wells Fargo Pavilion, 1419 H St., Sacramento
Tickets: $45 - $88. Tickets cost $40 in any section for children 4-12 years old. Children under the age of 4 (including babes in arms) will not be admitted to the theater.
Time: Two hours and 15 minutes including one intermission