The pieces are there with some to spare.
A show with much to dig has a cast that's just too big.
But worry not, for there's still much fun to be got.
“Seussical the Musical,” which opened last night at Loynd Auditorium at Kennett High School in North Conway, N.H. and is running this weekend and next Friday through Sunday, is another ambitious undertaking by Arts in Motion that is big and bright.
The show, written by Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty is primarily a reworking of the books “Horton Hears a Who” and “Horton Hatches the Egg,” but incorporates other Dr Seuss characters including Gertrude McFuzz (Taylor Hill) and the Cat in the Hat (Chris Madura), who provides narration.
Horton (Matt Stoker) with his giant ears is able to hear the Whos, the tiny inhabitants of a speck of dust. He vows to protect the whos in the the face of much adversity and ridicule lead by Sour Kangaroo (Jen Meers). Horton is then tricked into sitting on the egg of Mayzie LaBird (Sarah Ansaldi). The only person that believes in Horton is Gertrude whose massive crush on him goes entirely unnoticed.
Parallel to Horton's story is the goings on of Who. JoJo, the son of the Mayor (Craig Holden), is a big thinker and his imagination constantly gets him in trouble causing his parents to send him off to a military academy. In the sweet song “Alone in the Universe," Horton and JoJo bond over being outcasts for their unique world views.
The role of JoJo is double cast with Oliver Clay-Storm and Liam Van Rossum trading performances. I saw Clay-Storm, an impressive young actor who, unlike a lot of child actors, delivers his lines with feeling and has a good grasp of tone and inflection. He is an able singer as well. This is a kid to watch as he gets older.
Stoker makes a likable Horton and he's easy to root for. Even battling a cold, Stoker provides strong singing. Madura has fun as the Cat in the Hat, who pops up throughout the show to guide JoJo and to fill in the audience on what's happening.
Madura leads the show's opening number “Oh the Things You Can Think” and gets things off to a great high energy start. That energy is sustained for most of the first act, but things sag during the first half of the second act in which Horton is taken away to become a circus performer.
The turning point is Hill's performance of “All for You,” Gertrude's declaration of her love to Horton and the explanation of the many trials she went through to find him. It is a fun song delivered with charm and gusto by Hill.
This production of “Seussical,” directed by Mary Bastoni-Rebmann and music direction by George Wiese, is at odds with itself. The leads are well cast and the roles are played on a professional level, but then you have a bloated supporting cast of performers as young as 5.
There are scenes that require these youngest performers to simply jump around on stage looking cute. Now there's nothing wrong with that, but it has its place and here it merely distracts from the hard work of everyone else. Other scenes incorporate ballet numbers that, while well-performed, feel out of place. This is not an attack on the kids, they are indeed cute, but would be better suited for a recital.
Even with this shortcoming, this is a fun show enhanced by colorful set design by Tom Rebmann that captures the look of Dr. Seuss' books. Likewise the costumes by Patty Hibbert, Valerie Smith and Katrina Carus do a nice job of helping to create the world of Seuss.
The show ends with a wonderful and lively song version of “Green Eggs and Ham.” It will have you leaving the theater with a smile.
Tickets are $10 for adults and $8 for seniors and children. For more information or to order tickets visit www.artsinmotiontheater.com.