Seussical Jr

Date 22nd May 2015
Society Urmston Musical Theatre
Venue St Anthonys College
Type of Production Musical (Youth)
Director Emma Harris
Musical Director James Goodwin
Choreographer Emma Harris

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Author: Kevin Proctor

‘The Cat in the Hat’, ‘Horton Hears a Who’ and ‘How the Grinch Stole Christmas’ all have one thing in common; Seuss! 

Doctor Seuss is a beloved figure in children’s literature with his unique imagination and fantasy world(s) holding a special place in many people’s hearts. In “Seussical - the Musical” The juniors of Urmston Musical Theatre certainly did Doctor Seuss justice with their production.

This relatively unknown musical is an undiscovered gem for many musical theatre fans, it combines a vast array of characters from the collection of Doctor Seuss’s stories featuring Horton, the people of Who, Gertrude McFuzz and the Grinch (if only very slightly!).

Refusing to simplify, cut corners or lean towards the easier option was director and choreographer Emma Harris, this is already a scaled-down junior adaptation of the full musical which is still packed to the brim with full company action, challenging musical numbers and high energy, busy routines. I noticed how the majority of the movement was all character inspired movement which is refreshing to see particularly as we don’t get many choreographers in this game who understand or value the importance of the characters when staging movement.

The sweetness, humour and energetic high spirits was key to this production holding the whole performance together with poise.

Integral to the plot is JoJo – a tiny creature from the land of ‘Who’, who is punished for being an overactive thinker, having a curious imagination and asking too many questions. JoJo was incredibly sweetly played by Selina Gün, you must have a heart of stone if it wasn’t melted by this performance, Selina had a clear voice, conveyed exactly what was required, a natural performer who had the audience on her side from the get go, beautiful. 

Megan Collier confidently played The Cat in the Hat with swagger. This manic spirited narrator sported the iconic image of Seuss with the large red and white striped top hat and black and white suit. The Cat in the Hat interacts with JoJo with a Jiminy Cricket / imaginary friend influence encouraging her to use her knowledge and overactive imagination which results in JoJo being punished for thinking too much!

The set was a simple, static structure which could have afforded to be a little more whacky in its design. The industrial steel decking and scaffolding bars didn’t help to convey a make believe fantasy world, a false front attached to the set or some creative way to hide the raw materials would have presented a more desired effect. The revolving trucks worked very well which spun to jump location in an instant, the sailing into New York made me chuckle, very twee and clever. The costumes were aptly colourful, fun and simple all working to communicate the intended gist of this show.

I was impressed to learn that the technical roles were carried out by the juniors (with assistance) which is very commendable and inspiring, giving them hands on experience in exploring all aspects and crafts involved in shaping a production.

James Goodwin took the role of Musical Director, he needs to be praised for the sound which came from on stage which was terrific, we got some lovely harmony work and I appreciated the atmospheric ‘off’ voices which is something that can easily be cut but the effort to persevere with this paid off. The sound from in front of the stage didn’t feel as tight as it should have done and we didn’t get a full, balanced sound. I don’t know if the orchestrations had been reduced but that may explain why it felt a little jagged. The musicians hardly ever stop for a breather throughout this show, so on that, they must be commended.

Ella Kirk as the idealist bird, Gertrude demonstrated strong vocals and a competent performance. Same goes for Dominic Smith as Horton, Dominic communicated the caring nature of his character and is someone who is shaping out to be a very able performer indeed, given the style of this production I felt he could have given a little more animation, particularly with his facial expressions - I appreciate it may be an age issue but my advice would be to fight the fear and allow the character to take over!
Mayzie was delivered as a whimsical yet brassy diva to good effect by Francesca Clayton-Lomas.

The members of the ensemble had each created their own characters, it was a shame that the script didn’t allow us to meet them all as I spotted a few interesting personalities which seemed so developed I thought they were characters which would come to light as we got further into the show. I must commend the person or team responsible for all the make-up / face painting, it looked great fun for the cast and was far more effective than using masks which would have only hidden some of those wonderful expressions.

This was a production I thoroughly enjoyed. With all the rage of youth groups staging the gritty, depressing theme shows at the moment it was refreshing to see a colourful, great fun, high energy show with lots of smiles! A great choice!