This September, the stage at Houston's High School for the Performing and Visual Arts came to colorful life with their excellent production of "Seussical".  The show is a complicated amalgamation of Seuss stories, with a variety of unexpected characters popping into the action.  The narration is carried by the Cat of "Cat in the Hat" fame, but the storyline basically follows "Horton Hears a Who".  The biggest delight in the show is the music- and thankfully so- as "Seussical" is almost entirely sung.  The range of musical styles is staggering & would be daunting to the most experienced of musical theatre professionals, yet HSPVA's production was very, very well done.

The musical was billed as the school's "all-school musical", bringing together the various departments of dance, music, voice, theatre and technical theatre for this one project.  There were so many people involved in the show we couldn't possibly name them all.  The crowded and noisy lobby during the pre-show was packed with excited ticket holders waiting to get seats. The sets, by James Black were eye-boggling Seuss backdrops that lent a great deal of fun to the show.  Orchestra conductor Stephen Crawford led a wonderful orchestra for the production that only very occasionally seemed to outdo the singers in volume.  The lighting & props were ably handled.  Choreographers LuAnne Carter & Janie Carothers did a great job with this fun material and clearly even the actors who don't enjoy dancing as much had a world of fun with this show.  The choreography looked wonderful, with every one from the largest elephant to the most delicate bird girl moving with grace and ease.  A special nod must go to costume designers Laurie Hussman and Hannah Eskellson, who infused this show with so many wonderful interpretations of the Seuss characters.  Gertrude's tail was a hysterical hoot, the Wickersham Brothers costumes were quite creative, the cadets costumes were terrific and Horton was just darling, along with their great eye for color and style throughout the ensemble.

The role of the Cat, one of recent musical theatre's most fun roles, was nicely done by Brooke Singer, clearly having a great deal of fun interacting with the audience and camping at every turn.  Talented Jonquel Holiday played Horton the Elephant- he can come to Denver and sing gospel at our local church anytime- his voice is so sweet it seems to glide on velvet.  Sandy Rather was a definite standout as Jojo, Horton's Who friend.  Sandy is a gifted actor with excellent vocal control at a young age and a real knack for creating a character.  Liz Kaufman as Gertrude McFuzz was this reviewer's favorite performance in the show.  She carried Gertrude's character beautifully, never breaking character, with a great feel for the music and the attitude of this little bird with the one feathered tail and such affection for her favorite elephant.  Caity Pitts handled the "oh-so-into-herself" Mayzie with great gusto.  Fun "surprise" performances (with characters who sometimes are swept under the rug in "Seussical" productions) were by the wonderful Ryan Cole and Rose Grant as the Mayor and Mrs. Mayor.  The audience actually sympathized with their parental plights and these characters, who developed quite strongly, were a wonderful addition to the cast. The Wickersham Brothers were played by P. Kenard Miles, Jordan Bonner and Phillip Young with Amanda Bullwinkel, Jenna Marh and Taylor Bass as the Bird Girls.  Sour Kangaroo was played in Aretha Franklin style by Mahoganee Medlock, Thomas Goedecke played General Schmitz  and Kendra Hollingsworth was downright scary as the Grinch and a Circus performer.

Director Cynthia Ogden's production was most successful, though, in its heart. "Seussical" is a show with a very special message and it was quite clear on every level that all who were involved with this project believed in the story they had to tell.  One could certainly tell that this was a BIG experience for the entire school and they certainly have something to be very, very proud of.   It is a shame "Seussical" was not a big Broadway success, but thankfully there are many groups breathing life into it in community and high school theatre groups throughout the United States.  Congratulations to the entire cast & crew of "Seussical" on an excellent show, and for sharing the wonderful stories and characters of Dr. Seuss.

Performed September 26 - 29, 2007.

Tammy Franklin
National Youth Theatre

~ Cast ~

Cat in the Hat:  Brooke Singer
Jojo: Sandy Rather
Horton: Jonquel Holiday
Sour Kangaroo: Mahoganee Medlock
Schmitz: Thomas Goedecke
Mayzie: Caity Pitts, Taylor Bass
Gertrude: Jenna Mark, Liz Kaufman
Mayor: Ryan Cole
Mrs. Mayor: Rosie Grant

Bird Girls:
Amanda Bullwinkel
Jenna Mark/Liz Kaufman
Caity Pitts/Taylor Bass

Wickersham Brothers:
P. Kenard Miles
Jordan Bonner
Phillip Young

Yertle the Turtle: John Pyburn
Vlad Vladikoff: Devin Glick
Grinch: Kendra Hollingsworth 


Devin Glick                                                     Alyssa Davidson

Molly Griffin                                                    Leslie Dockery                      

Megan Stanke                                                 Eric Tunchez

Amanda Tankersley                                         Kendra Hollingsworth              

John Pyburn                                                    Hannah Stanchi

Jhardon Milton                                                John Carter 



Leah Cernosek                                                 Jordan Clark

Janie Enloe                                                       Natalie Eramo

Margot Gelber                                                  Lindsey Georglas

Liz Holtz                                                           Courtney Myers

                                                                        Brett Young

                                                                        Taylor Jackson (Fish/Hunch only)


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