by Terrance Mc Arthur
Gertrude McFuzz. The Sour Kangaroo. Yertle the Turtle. The Whos. Horton. Sound familiar? If those don’t ring a bell, throw in The Cat in the Hat.
Yes, they are characters of Theodore Seuss Geisel, known to the world as Dr. Seuss. Stir them all together and get Seussical Jr., a simplified version of the Broadway show Seussical, adapted for young performers and streamlined for young audiences, presented at Veterans Memorial Auditorium, 2425 Fresno St., by Children’s Musical Theaterworks through August 25.
We all know what the world of Dr. Seuss looks like, with rolling lines, unearthly, gravity-defying hairstyles, and quirky costumes. This production has them, including hair supported by plastic bottles, hair supporting artificial flowers, and more feathers than you’d find in the large-bird aviary of the Chaffey Zoo. Abigail Paxton’s costumes and Jenny Myers work on hair and costumes, go a long way toward setting the off-kilter atmosphere the show needs. Before the show even begins, Dominic Grijalva works computer-driven magic with a title slide filled with letters that can’t seem to hold still, dancing and careening across the stage curtain.
The Cat in the Hat serves as narrator, instigator of trouble, and any extra characters that are needed for a story. Adam Dueck has the tall, rangy look and the expansive gestures of the Cat, ready to be anywhere and do anything in the name of fun.
Dayne Sorensen is a dapper and slightly stuffy, gray-suited Horton the Elephant in a Lynn/Ahrens/Steve Flaherty script (co-conceived by Monty Python’s Eric Idle) that melds both Horton Hatches an Egg and Horton Hears a Who into one storyline. Sorensen has a cuddly, Gary Burghoff (Radar in M*A*S*H) quality, benignly muddling through when the world is arrayed against him.
The performers are divided into two groups, the Red Fish cast and the Blue Fish cast. Dueck and Sorensen always play The Cat and Horton, but many parts are played by different actors for different performances.
In the Blue Fish ensemble, Sydney Swearingen is hopelessly devoted to Horton as Gertrude Mc Fuzz, who provides a parable on the dangers of drugs and cosmetic surgery. Roni Williams is a flower-headed, willowy Mrs. Mayor, towering over Mr. Mayor (Tanner Johnston). Alyssa Martin is a cheerful JoJo, pulled into the action by The Cat. Michaela Boyles is brassy as the Sour Kangaroo, and Ashley McNeil spreads joy and feathers across the stage as Mayzie La Bird.
The songs are fun and flighty, Cameron Briggs’ direction keeps things moving, and Seussical Jr. is a delightful trip to the cheeky fun of our childhood memories of Dr. Seuss, which isn’t a bad place to visit.
The final weekend of Seussical Jr. has performances August 23-25, with 7:30 p.m. shows on Friday and Saturday, and Saturday and Sunday matinees at 2 p.m. Tickets are from $12 to $22. for more information, call (559) 442-3140 or check out their website.
Check out more theatre articles up this week, and in the past, in our Arts & Entertainment section.