Seussical Jr.
by Desert Stages Theatre

Oh, the Thinks You Can Think when reading the wild and whimsical books of Dr. Seuss. That’s how many of us learned to read. And now that’s how many are being introduced to theatre, thanks to Stephen Flaherty and Lynn Ahrens’ Seussical – a musical retelling of Horton the Elephant’s adventures, from trying to save a city of Whos on a dust speck, to trying to lay an egg. And Desert Stages Children’s Theatre just put on an imaginative and entertaining production of it in Scottsdale, Arizona.

The show takes place in their in-the-round stage, with the cast coming out of all corners for the opening Oh, The Thinks You Can Think number as they’re excitedly reading various Dr. Seuss classics, all decked out in some colorful and creative costumes, and eventually leaving us with a Seuss-reading boy and a Cat in the Hat to guide us through the tale. Alex Carter is a charismatic and mischievous cat with a great voice and marvelous expressions and timing. The Cat suckers the boy, E.J. Dohring, into jumping into the story and becoming a Who named Jojo (the son of the Who Mayor and his wife, Christopher Allen and Margaret Stuart) who keeps getting in trouble with his parents thanks to his overactive imagination, including turning his bath into McElligott’s Pool (done with black lighting and fishes out of One Fish, Two Fish, and featuring some cool swimming through the air by Jojo courtesy of other cast members camouflaged in black). E.J. also sports great energy, singing, and personality in the role – truly a boy who loves to think big thinks, and E.J. and Alex make for a great team as they explore the world of Dr. Seuss.

And then there are all those magical characters inside the books, beginning with the one with the biggest ears and biggest heart, Horton the Elephant. Andrew Witcher is the loyal elephant that tries so hard to save the Whos and gets tricked into sitting on a bird’s egg. Andrew nicely captures the good-hearted side of Horton, as well as a bit more of the humorous side than usual. His loyalty gets him the scorn and ridicule of everyone in the jungle except Gertrude McFuzz – the one-feathered-tailed bird next door who has such a crush on Horton that she serenades us with her Love Song for Horton Number Four……..Hundred Thirty-Seven. Haley Johnson turns in a remarkable performance as she squeezes out the most of each lyric with a natural sense of comedy and character. Her love for Horton is palpable, including her wavering attempts to reach out and touch him as he ignores her during Notice Me, Horton. And she’s a riot whether she’s building her courage up before approaching Horton to confess her feelings, or trying to depict “normal flying,” or being totally obsessed and drooling over the “fabulous tail” of Mayzie La Bird (hoping to get one of her own so she can catch a certain elephant’s eye).

Speaking of which, Sierra Corbett shines as the amazingly vain and self-centered Mayzie. And Sierra oozes vanity and self-centeredness, unapologetically pushing people out of her way and treating everyone else as a nuisance unless they can help her in some way. And doing so with hilarious flair and style, even getting Horton to start dancing happily to her song (before he realizes that she’s resigning him to stay on her egg permanently).

The Bird Girls (Austyn Bridgewater, Charlie Kate Harper, Devon Prokopek, and Jordan Yampolsky) narrate the story with style, Jessie Sadler focuses the disdain of the other animals as the Sour Kangaroo, Elizabeth Johnston is an impossibly cute Young Kangaroo in her pouch, and the ensemble does well as jungle animals and Whos and circus performers (the latter of which consists of the dynamic Thing 1 and Thing2 (Ashley Turell and Zachary Denious) playing leapfrog). Director Bill Atkinson did nice work playing to all sides of the theatre-in-the-round and demonstrates a great eye for this musical, which all takes place in the middle of the beautifully painted set covering the surrounding walls and floor of the stage, completely immersing us in the world of Dr. Seuss.

Performs August 22 - September 21, 2008

Rob Hopper
National Youth Theatre

~ Cast ~

The Cat in the Hat: Alex Carter
Horton the Elephant: Andrew Witcher
Gertrude McFuzz: Haley Johnson
Mayzie La Bird: Sierra Corbett
Jojo: E.J. Dohring
Sour Kangaroo: Jessie Sadler
Young Kangaroo: Elizabeth Johnston
Mayor of Whoville: Christopher Allen
The Mayor's Wife: Margaret Stuart
Bird Girls:
Austyn Bridgewater
Charlie Kate Harper
Devon Prokopek
Jordan Yampolsky
Wickersham Brothers:
Samantha Allen
Ian Biggane
Vassiea Hurt
Alexandra Partida
Yertle the Turtle: Jake Rodrigues
The Grinch: Jared Lara
Vlad Vladikoff: Maria Lewandowski
Thing #1: Ashley Turell
Thing #2: Zachary Denious
Cindy Lou Who: Savannah Tate
Connor Baker
Jake Brenner
Tyler Conrad
Michael Lewandowski
Jungle Citizens:
Sydney Brimhall
Cassie Daly
Rain Demson
Bailey Hall
Haley Miller
Leah Myers
Cooper Alofs
Jamie Benjamin
Lauren Benjamin
Isabella Brock
Rylie Conrad
Lillie Irvin
Jed Kaufman
Phoebe Kozinets
Teddy Lewandowski
Ligaya Manalastas
Corinne Niezgodzki
Kailie Plotnick
Sammi Plotnik
Julia Rohe
Samantha Rohe
Nina Sarmiento
Vayda Sarpy
Lexi Sherman
Erin Tarkington
Oliver Tavatli
Lauren Vives
Trinity Wirt

Director: Bill Atkinson
Choreographer: Tiffany Atkinson
Musical Director: Terry Temple
Technical Director: Jonathan Bowersock
Set Design: Andrew Witcher
Sound & Lights: Ryan Cunningham, Genai Cavender, Nicolai Linder, Alberto Partida
Costumes: Joann Margulies Courtney, Kile, Deb Sorensen
Make-Up Design: Jacqui Notorio


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