Friday, November 05, 2010

Arts in Motion's 'Seussical' is whimsical fun

It is with a heavy heart that I must impart that “Seussical” is not quite magical.
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


theworldiswatching said...

Kerr, This is Seuss, things are supposed to look out of place! And another thing is that the show couldn't have happened without the supporting cast, especialy those who were as young as five! Please take into account that this is Art's in Motion YOUTH Players. these sorts of reviews are what take from the Self Esteem of these Budding actors. Granted that this review was MUCH better then your review on Narnia, but you still have take those thing into account!

Anonymous said...

It's unfortunate you decided to base your review on a dress rehearsal. Even more unfortunate is that you failed to mention that in your review. Had you based this on an actual "real" performance then you would not have seen Oliver Clay-Storm as Jojo, you would have seen Liam as he is the gentlemen who who performed on Friday and Saturday. I am glad though that you did get to see Oliver because he, like so many others in that cast was fantastic!
We saw you at the dress rehearsal and hoped you would not do these wonderfully talented youngsters wrong, but you did. A rehearsal is simply that; a rehearsal. You've lost all respect as far as I am concerned because any critic worthy of reading would be up front about that fact that the review is not being based on an actual performance, but instead a rehearsal. Shame on you for being deceitful and misguiding.
Since you failed to do your job, let me do it for you. Look, I can do it with a lot less fluff too!

Seussical The Musical is full of charm and non stop energy. Never did I expect to see so much talent in a little theater group in North Conway NH. Some of these kids have so much talent I expect to see them on Broadway someday. Taylor Hill has a voice that could carry her to the top spot on American Idol! Who would every expect to see such a high caliber performance in such a small community theater. Bravo kids, you should all be proud!!

Alec Kerr said...

With few exceptions, every show I've reviewed in the valley has been a dress rehearsal. It is the only way to get a review into the paper for opening weekend of a show. It is not deceitful and I do take into account that things aren't perfect. This is a positive review. Yes, I cited things I didn't like, but over all I enjoyed it and said as such. Not everyone has to love a piece of theater completely. None of my criticisms, which were minor, were said with malice or an intent to hurt. Believe it or not, I choose my words carefully and do consider their impact.

Anonymous said...

The anonymous poster is obviously an angry stage mom. Well, grow up put on your big girl panties and when you get some (at least one year) of experience in a true theater, you would realize that a rehearsal IS A PERFORMANCE. Other wise what are they rehearsing for?

I am also disappointed in that you teach your children that they must constantly get praise to fill in some twisted scense of self worth that you aren't providing.

Celebrating mediocrity seems to be the new black. Let's raise our glasses and toast to a 2.0 grade average, bathing once a week, and having only 2 teeth. YAH!

Michael J. Curtiss said...

What I find especially bothersome about this particular review is not how Mr. Kerr quantifies the experience, but how his integrity is called into question by those who don't have the courage to express their opinions and sign their real names to them.

Say what you will about how Mr. Kerr comes at the craft of theatre criticism, he at least has the courage of his convictions to put his name to that which he writes.

I understand that a review often incurs the wrath of those who feel that the reviewer in question may have missed the mark. While everyone is certainly entitled to express an opinion, they nullify the impact their comments may have by hiding behind the dubious safety of anonymous postings.

It's easy to take the low road and post negative commentary. Far more challenging, and more worthy of respect, is the commentator who adds weight to his opinion by connecting his own identity to that which he writes.

From the general tenor of the postings here, it's easy to see where these folks choose to come down on the whole question of anonymous postings.

Were I Mr. Kerr, I would seriously consider not allowing anonymous posts to see the light of day, thus raising the the general level of discourse, and rendering conversations like this moot.


Michael J. Curtiss