Wagon Wheel Theatre (aka Center for the Arts) opened its 2018 season Wednesday with two hours of color, spirit and humor delivered in a family-friendly package titled “Seussical” (the musical).
SeussIn case the name is familiar, it certainly should be.
Theodor Seuss Geisel (aka Dr. Seuss) is responsible for creating many of the most memorable characters in children’s literature. About 18 are featured or, at least , mentioned in this theatrical assemblage, with book, music and lyrics by Stephen Flaherty and Lynn Ahrens.
The action (and there is plenty of it!) begins with the appearance of one of the best known of all Seuss creations — The Cat in The Hat (Logan Foster) — who pops up (literally) to make young Jojo (Jacob Crater) aware of all “The Things You Can Think”. The Cat introduces him to the residents of Whoville, led by Mr.Mayor (Michael Pacholski) and Mrs. Mayor (Kira Lace Hawkins), and the inhabitants of the Jungle of Nool.
Included in last are Horton the Elephant (Grayson Samuels), Gertrude McFuzz (Allsun O‘Malley), Maysie La Bird (Juliette Redden), the Sour Kangaroo (De’jah Jervai), the Wickersham Brothers (Nick Case, Ian Laudano and Ahmad Ratliff) and the Bird Girls (Ashlyn Maddox, Jessica Mintr and Laura Plyler).
The Cat, as it turns out, has no qualms about leading Jojo into trouble which lands him (briefly) in the military school of General Genghis Kahn Schmitz (Michael Yocum) who believes it’s war that makes a boy a man!
On his own, Jojo meets another lonely soul, Horton, who cannot say no to a cry for help and winds up holding the tiny town of Whoville on the top or a clover and sitting on Maysie’s egg while she “takes a short break” to Palm Beach.
The further adventures of Horton, Jojo, Gertrude McFuzz and their friends and adversaries in the jungle are recreated delightfully by the talented WW company. Under the direction of Scott Michaels, who also is responsible for the amazingly non-stop choreography, the story of the steadfast Horton (“an elephant’s faithful 100 percent!”) and Jojo, who discovers the power of “Think,” is the icing on the cake of life lessons , who has a rather applicible to all — except that they are even more enjoyable when sung and danced.
As always. Michaels & Co. (on and off stage) deliver a top quality theatrical product which translates to a highly enjoyable evening (or matinee) for children of all ages.
Scenic designer Mike Higgins (with a look-back at the first “Seussical” design by the late Roy Hine), creates a world that hovers somewhere between a colorful playground and a Christmas celebration.
Stephen R. Hollenbeck’s wildly inventive costumes (including a bunch of black-lit Hunches) are, of course, in neon shades that threaten to glow without the assistance of Seif Salotto-Cristobal’s magical lighting design. Especially love the Bird Girls’ hosiery and the lemon yellow coats/dresses for all the Whos!
The primarily up-beat score is in the excellent hands of conductor/keyboardist Thomas N. Sterling and the 10 musicians who make up his always top orchestra.
Vocally, the WW ‘18 company is up to the high standards which have been established over the decades. Ensemble or solo work, all fit the criteria for singing/dancers (or dancing/singers).
This is standard fare for WW but in this company a number of the performers have yet to enter high school. Check their precision in the dance numbers and read the lyrics on their lips. They don’t miss a beat or a syllable!
The leading role of Jojo is in the capable person of 12-year-old Crater who handles the difficult and extended assignment like an — I was going to say like an adult but — like a professional. He and Horton bond believably and withstand the machinations of the selfish Mayse and the slyly nasty Cat.
In the Jungle of Nool or Whoville or Solla Sollew or The Universe, Jojo, Horton, the Cat and all their friends are exhilarating examples of what can happen when you “THINK!”
SEUSSICAL plays through June 9 in the theater at 2517 E. Center St.in Warsaw.. For performance times and reservations, call (574) 267-8041.