Wednesday, January 9, 2013

REVIEW: Seussical (London)

The Arts Theatre (London), Sunday December 23

On to the 7th show of my 14 shows in 13 days marathon. Like Viva Forever! Seussical was the only available show during this time slot, which was a Sunday morning. Needless to say, there is a reason for it and that is because it was meant for kids. In their words, it is the “Theatre for Young Audiences Version”. Unlike Viva Forever! though, I am actually quite curious about this musical because first, it is a Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty musical (same team that brought us the award-winning musicals like Once On This Island and Ragtime); and second, I have heard the cast recordings and they are actually not bad at all.
I do have a few apprehensions though. I knew there will be a lot of kids and I am not sure whether my friend Matthew (who I have invited to join me) will appreciate that! Also, how does an adult review a show meant for kids? I have reviewed Potted Potter before. When I wrote, “it was not a show of sophisticated wit or intelligent satire,” I got feedbacks like “Of course it’s a children’s show. It’s a children’s book series” and “what did you expect Shakespeare?” Yes, it WAS a show meant for kids, BUT it advertised and claimed that “it is perfect for ages six to Dumbledore (who is very old indeed)”; thus I reviewed it from a Dumbledore perspective! So what does one do when there was no such claim? Well, my perspective is that somebody has to buy the tickets and bring the kids there right? And that will most probably be responsible adults with a certain love for live theatre… sounds like me!
The first thing that I noticed when the show started was that it uses a pre-recorded accompaniment. Unfortunately, it was also not a good one. Then came the Cat (in the hat); and his prosthetic muzzle piece was so shockingly bad and disgusting that I feel that the show will be better off without it! In any case, the rest of the costume design was so simple and stylized. All Horton the Elephant had was a grey puff vest and a grey fur-lined motoring hat (hat that has two pieces of flap that comes down the side to cover the ears). Same went with the rest of the cast… the Mazie La Bird had a bouquet of feathers behind her red gown, while the Wickersham Brothers who were supposed to be monkeys had just a jacket with some furs attached to it. The simplicity might have caused a bit of confusion as to what are the characters were supposed to be, though I had a suspicion that the kids were not as confused.
The strength of this show was the energy and enthusiasm of the performers. This, together with the highly amplified sound though was a bit too much at some point. Some of the highlight performances came from David Hunter’s Horton the Elephant who was beautifully innocent and kind without looking like he was mentally-challenged. Also, Jessica Parker’s Mayzie La Bird was spot-on. The rest of the cast turned in an effervescent performance that held the attention of the kids.
Overall, it is not your typical high-quality West End show. The production was colourful but cheap looking, yet the story was told lucidly. I like it, but will not want to see THIS production again… having said that, the kids around me seemed to enjoy it immensely.
Arts Theatre, West End
From: Tuesday, 4th December 2012
To: Sunday, 6 January 2013

Creative Team:
Lynn Ahrens (Lyrics)
Stephen Flaherty (Music)
David Hutchinson (Producer)
Phillip Rowntree (for Sell a Door Theatre Company) (Producer)

Cast includes:
David Hunter (Horton the Elephant)
Kirsty Marie Ayers (Gertrude McFuzz)
Jessica Parker (Mazie La Bird)
Clark Devlin (Jojo)
Natalie Green (Sour Kangaroo)
Joe Morrow (The Cat in the Hat)
Philip Scutt (Joe McCourt)
Mathew Waters (Wickersham Brothers)
Amy Punter (Bird Girl)
Tanya Shields (Bird Girl)
Jennifer Low (Bird Girl)

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