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Review

The Show:  

Dr. Seuss’s zany thinks created a trove of books that inspired generations of children to learn to read, while also inspiring this fun and engaging musical by Stephen Flaherty and Lynn Ahrens (Ragtime, Once On This Island). The story is based on Horton Hears a Who and Horton Hatches an Egg, intertwined with gazoogles of other Seuss books and characters, all as seen through the eyes of a young reader who gets named JoJo and our narrating Cat in the Hat who wears many hats throughout the show.  

It starts with Horton hearing voices, but are they real voices or does he just think he hears them? The lives of all the Whos down in Whoville depend on him believing in them and protecting them, as their precarious existence on a tiny speck of dust grows more precarious by the moment when the other animals of the Jungle of Nool decide Horton is nuts and that his precious speck has got to go. Will Horton risk everything to save these tiny people only he can hear and nobody can see? The loyalty of Horton and the imagination of a young daydreamer named JoJo may hold the key as the lives of the Whos hang in the balance, hovering just inches above a hot steamy kettle of beezlenut oil.  

The Production:  

Would you eat dinner with a who? Would you eat it by McElligott’s Pool? Westchester Broadway Theatre in Elmsford, New York makes that an enticing option with their summer dinner theater production of Seussical. Great casts that combine talented adults and youth, and excellent production values, are a staple here. And their Seussical continues the tradition.  

The adults include improvisational physical comedian Augie Abatecola leading us through as a Cat in the Hat with limitless energy and charisma, playing to the audience and with it, teasing his fellow Seuss characters as well. Brian Krinsky is a gentle Horton the Elephant who also offers some nicely underplayed humor. Joey Sanzaro is a brilliant General Schmitz, a drill sergeant with original characterization and expressions as he is disgusted by his wet-behind-the-ears regiment of young soldiers.  

Several other adults typically play leads but have youth understudies, and they graciously let their youth understudies perform the day we attended. These included Tara Mazur as an amusing and appropriately nerdy/awkward/self-deprecating Gertrude McFuzz, the bird next door in love with Horton, delivering a great All For You to finally get Horton’s attention. Lauren Moore is hilarious as “Amazing Mayzie” – a diva extraordinaire shaking her self-lauded tail feathers with fantastic diva-ish dancing, flair, and attitude. Shannon Stout as the Sour Kangaroo belts out her taunts of Horton with great attitude and use of voice. Lexie Naus is a sweet and meek Jojo raised by a couple of creatively conceived and performed parental units featuring Jonathan Genovese as the Mayor and Kayla Moore as His Wife – the two of them making a fun and quirky duo as they struggle raising one of those head-in-the-cloud kids who thinks way too much, especially when Jojo overflows his tub and Mrs. Mayor hilariously calms down an about-to-explode Mr. Mayor. At least, calms him for a moment or two. 

The ensemble includes a group of cool, tough, and amusing monkeys who find time in their taunting to flirt with the bird girls, with said bird girls being a fun, dynamic, and saucy bunch of great singers and dancers. And the whos are a good group of very young actors that completely get into their roles whether they are living in fear (huddled together on an unpredictable dust speck), thanking Horton for his help with a quirky salute, or fighting for their lives in the big finale. 

Director John Fanelli’s show has some nice humorous touches throughout, but also some touching and mesmerizing ones including the solo dancer during the Solla Sollew lullaby. Choreographer Lexie Fennell Frare does a nice job with that and several other scenes including McElligot’s Pool and the big opening number, Taylor Martins costumes are lively and aesthetically pleasing, and Steve Loftus’s set is both colorful and clever for some great staging of scenes, as well as for the instruction book for how to raise a child – fittingly a huge Dr. Seuss book.

Performed June 16 - July 31, 2011

Rob Hopper
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Executive Director
National Youth Arts

~ Cast ~

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The Cat in the Hat: Augie Abatecola
Horton the Elephant: Brian Krinsky
Gertrude McFuzz: Tara Mazur
Mayzie LaBird: Lauren Moore
Sour Kangaroo: Shannon Stout
General Ghengis Khan: Joey Sanzaro
The Wickersham Brothers: Micah Cowher, Jeff Raab, FaTye Francis
Jungle Citizens:
Elena Pascullo
Lauren Wagner
Jennifer Jonas
Marissa Heintzmann
Joey Sanzaro
Shannon Stout
Kimmi Naus
Melissa Magaliff
Jackson Fanelli
Brittany Bonbmassa
Jenna Rush
Allison Muccioli
Bird Girls:
Rebecca Simpson-Wallack
Sami Naus
Alyssa DiPanfilo
Yertle the Turtle: Matt Stout
Marshal: Rebecca Simpson-Wallack
The Grinch: Jackson Fanelli
Fish:
Rebecca Simpson-Wallack
Sami Naus
Alyssa DiPanfilo
Shannon Stout
Melissa Magaliff
Kimmi Naus
Brittany Bonamassa
Jenna Rush
Allison Muccioli
Circus McGurkus: Ensemble
JoJo: Lexi Naus
Mr. Mayor: Jonathan Genovese
Mrs. Mayor: Kayla Moore
Baby Kangaroo: Molly Perrine
Thing 1: Ryan Fanelli
Thing 2: Jasmine Cores
Vlad Vladikoff: Michele Laino
Cindy Lou Who: Sofia Singer
Baby Elephant Bird: Grace Fanelli
The Whos:
Emelia Ducic
Hope Sullivan
Ryan Fanelli
Jasmine Cores
Michele Laino
Molly Perrine
Grace Fanelli

Director: John Fanelli
Assistant Director: Alyssa Gomez
Musical Director: Michelle DeAngelis
Stage Manager: Colleen Till
Choreographer: Lexie Fennell Frare
Executive Producer: Nannette Fanelli
Lighting Design: Bob Durso
Sound Design: John Hatton
Scenic Design: Steve Loftus
Costume Design: Taylor Martin
Props Designer: Ki Bird
Dance Captain: Lauren Wagner

   

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