by Michael Dresdner
|All photos by Dennis K Photography|
Oh, the things that you’ll see when you go to theater!
A cast of weird characters in costumes much weirder,
All singing and dancing with words that all rhyme!
I promise you’ll have a superbly good time.
Ok, ok, I’ll stop. I know – I’m no Dr. Seuss, but here’s the real lowdown.
Tacoma Little Theatre is easing into the Christmas season with Seussical the Musical, a joyously exuberant, fast-paced, unabashedly endearing offering laced with outstanding performances from top to bottom.
|L to r: Kathy Kluska, Olivia Zamira, Sharry O'Hare, Alexandria Bray, Micheal O'Hara, Gunnar Ray, Andrew Fry|
Much to her credit, director Jen York has put together the perfect cast, and backed by Terry O’Hare’s buoyant musical direction and the more than impressive choreography talents of Eric Clausell, has unleashed a high-spirited, thoroughly enjoyable show that hits the mark in every category.
All this plays out on a stage, by Blake York, that looks for all the world like it came directly from Seuss’ own hand, with an eye-popping array of colorful and outrageous costumes by Michele Graves, magnificently comical props, wigs, and makeup by Jeffery Weaver, and an ever-changing panorama of lighting by Niclas Olson. And let’s not forget stage manager Dana Galagan and her ASM Alyshia Collins who somehow managed to keep the non-stop whirligig of sight and sound moving apace flawlessly.
|Steve Barnett (Horton the Elephant)|
As far as the plot content goes, it's a mash up of a dozen and a half of Dr. Seuss most dearly loved characters and stories (the Grinch and Whoville, Horton Hatches an Egg, The Butter Battle Book, The Circus McGurkus, and many more,) so it is comfortably familiar, yet refreshingly new.
And the actors? Ah, what a delight.
|L to r: Alexandria Bray (Jojo) and Christopher Sweet (The Cat in the Hat )|
The Cat in the Hat, the emcee of the action, is played by Christopher Sweet, a tall, lanky, rubber-limbed marionette reminiscent of Joel Gray’s amazing Cabaret portrayal. Assisting him is Jojo (Alexandria Bray,) the young, vivacious daughter of the mayor of Whoville with a personality that fairly bursts off the stage and a talent to match. They are, like absolutely everyone in the cast, classic triple threats, able to sing, dance, and act with practiced ease, often all at the same time.
|L to r: Smantha Lobberegt (Mayzie) and Brittany Griffins (Gertrude)|
Rarely have I seen a cast with so many serious, obviously trained singers, which in case you were wondering, is a big step above mere musical theatre singers. Leading the pack are two ruby-throated warblers, the birds Gertrude (Brittany Griffins) and her nemesis Mayzie (Smantha Lobberegt.) They are ably backed by a singing, dancing bird quartet (Caiti Burke, Emma Konop, Jayda Slack, and Maddie Fry) who bring to mind the “Dinettes” of Pump Boys fame.
|The Bird Girls: Emma Konop, Caiti Burke, Maddie Fry|
Equally powerful in voice is the Sour Kangaroo (Courtney Eggert) assisted by her charmingly diminutive sidekick, Young Kangaroo. That role alternates between Caleb Corpeno and Evie Merrill. The night I was there I was lucky enough to watch Evie, a precocious pixie whose photo must surely be in the dictionary under “indescribably adorable.” And let’s not forget Horton the Elephant himself, who is ever so sweetly played by rich-voiced Steve Barnett.
|L to r: Micheal O'Hara (Mayor of Whoville), Sharry O'Hare (his wife), Alexadria Bray (Jojo)|
Tucked away in the cast like an Easter egg waiting to delight us is Tacoma’s own version of the Lunt-Fontannes; that redoubtable pair, Micheal O'Hara and Sharry O'Hare, playing the mayor of Whoville and his wife. And that’s just the leads; the rest of the ensemble is right up there with the reigning talent on stage.
The bottom line is that I can’t say enough good things about this play. If you are one of the many of us buffeted by the gruesome reality of politics, the state of the world, and the impending onslaught of holiday stress, this may be the best chance to leave it all behind and let pure joy wash over you.
So please, go to see it as soon as you can.
I assure you, like me, you’ll become a true fan.
(Uh oh. I’m sorry. I did it again,
but it’s easy to slip into rhyme now and then,
especially after a night such as this
when the theatre just gave you two hours of bliss!)
Enough already. Buy tickets. Reward yourself. This is a truly wonderful theatrical offering.
Seussical the Musical
Dec. 1 to Dec. 24, 2017
Tacoma Little Theatre