Dr. Seuss’s zany thinks created a trove of books that inspired generations of children to learn to read, while also inspiring this popular musical by Stephen Flaherty and Lynn Ahrens (Ragtime, Once On This Island). Valley Youth Theatre brought the pages of Seuss books to life on the big Herberger Stage in Phoenix under the direction of Bobb Cooper, complete with impressive sets, a spot-on orchestra (Mark Fearey), great lighting (Michael Eddy), a fun and imaginative variety of choreography (Katie Casey), eye-popping costumes (Karol Cooper), and a cast of colorful characters inside them.

The story is based on Horton Hears a Who and Horton Hatches an Egg, intertwined with several other Seuss books and characters. Leading us through the mix is the Cat in the Hat, and Paul Thomson is our creative, charismatic, playful, abusive narrator who directs the action on stage with flair and an occasional push, also taking part in the action under several guises including a randomly creepy pink keyboardist on a bicycle, a gay cabana boy who blows through Mayzie LaBird’s hair, and a Jojo impersonator that makes getting blown up look fun.

Christopher Moffitt is the adorable, daydreaming little boy who gets tossed into the Horton story as Jojo – a young who that keeps getting in trouble with his unruly thinks. Horton the elephant, the only jungle citizen whose ears are big enough to hear the whos, is played by Shawn Hathcock, and he embodies the loyal, likable, somewhat obsessed nice guy who would bend over backwards for just about anyone – even people who might take advantage of such a thing. Like, say, Amazing Mayzie, with Stefani Wood strutting her fine feathers with great dancing, singing, attitude, comedy and, when needed, a touching scene. Gertrude McFuzz is a bit envious of those fine feathers, thinking that having a few more might help her catch the eye of the elephant next door, with Channing Cooper playing the determined suitor of Horton who describes in depth how far she goes to try to please him in a well done All For You.

Other strong performances come from Bri Giger as a most Sour Kangaroo backed up by the equally sassy and sour kangaroo in her pouch, Adia Bell, both providing some excellent vocals as they lead the jungle creatures against the apparently insane elephant. William Marquez is even crazier than the average crazed, war-happy General Schmitz as he leads his troops through the butter wars, softening nicely when he realizes what he’s done. Derek Rushing and Kelsey Johnson turn in amusing performances as the who’s Mayor and his Wife. The mean monkeys are meaner and cooler than usual, the co-narrating Bird Girls take us through the tale with good vocals and style, while the talented ensemble inhabit their characters especially well – from the quirky and nervous little whos to the wild and confident citizens of the jungle seeking to boil, boil, boil their troubles in a hot steamy kettle of beezlenut oil.

Performs March 6 - 22, 2009.

Rob Hopper
National Youth Theatre

~ Cast ~

Cadet: Matt Amato
Ensemble: Sarah Ambrose
Who: Zoe Armstrong
Ensemble: Courtney Barnes
Young Kanga: Adia Bell
Cindy Lou Who: Payton Bioletto
Bird Girl: Carrie Braver
Wickersham Brother: Gavin Brown
Ensemble: David Buehrle
Ensemble: Brittany Collier
Gertrude: Channing Cooper
Wickersham Brother: Matthew Cordon
Ensemble: Robyn Dannerbeck
Who: Summer Edwards
Who: Abby Espiritu
Who: Donovan Fiore
Who: Benjamin Formisano
Ensemble: Christina Freberg
Sour Kangaroo: Bri Giger
Ensemble/Fish: Tyler Hainlen
Horton: Shawn Hathcock
Bird Girl: Sarah Hollands
Vlad Vladikoff/Ensemble: Dylan Holycross
Mrs. Mayor: Kelsey Johnson
Who: Morgan Karns
Who: Talia Khan
Ensemble: Leti Lopez
Ensemble: Megan Mahoney
General Schmitz: William Marquez
Ensemble: Jay McClay
Who: Brennen Metcalfe
Cadet: Adam Moffitt
Jojo/Boy: Christopher Moffitt
Bird Girl: Jessica Moffitt
Ensemble: Tim O'Halloran
Wickersham Brother: John Luke Osorio
Cadet: Tanner Perry
Cadet: Richard Pomraning
Grinch/Ensemble: Brady Quisberg
Ensemble: Jennie Rhiner
Yertle the Turtle/Ensemble: Colin Ross
Ensemble: Nicole Rubin
Mayor: Derek Rushing
Ensemble: Jessie Sadler
Cadet: Devin Sanders
Ensemble: Alyssa Simmons
Ensemble: Will Snider
Cadet: Bryan Tanquary
Who: Myranda Tanquary
Cat in the Hat: Paul Thomson
Who: Jackson Tramel
Ensemble: Payton Travis
Ensemble: Ian White
Mayzie: Stefani Wood

Director: Bobb Cooper
Music Direction: Mark Fearey
Choreographer: Katie Casey
Costume Design: Karol Cooper
Sound Design: Dave Temby
Lighting Design: Michael Eddy
Set Design: J. Branson, provided by Music Theatre of Wichita


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