Tuesday, January 7, 2014

'Seussical' for inspiration

As I will be assistant-directing Seussical at my university next semester, going to see this limited-run production of the show was an ample opportunity to gather some ideas for the visuals and observe how the professionals have brought the characters to life.

Seussical at the Arts Theatre
Performance: Sunday 29th December 2013
Seat: Circle right
Music: Stephen Flaherty
Lyrics: Lynn Ahrens
Director: Kirk Jameson
Cast included: Ste Clough (Horton the Elephant), Elliot Fitzpatrick (Cat in the Hat), Jordan Veloso (JoJo), Kirsty Marie Ayers (Gertrude), Jessica Parker (Mayzie)

Brief plot summary
Horton the Elephant hears the cries of the Whos, a race so small that it is invisible to the naked eye, from a clover. He takes it up as his duty to guard the clover. JoJo, a Who child, gets into trouble for thinking too much and he bonds with Horton, because he, too, has 'thinks'. Meanwhile, Gertrude is trying to impress Horton but feels she is not succeeding because of her virtually non-existent tail and asks Mayzie for help.

The cast of Seussical.

The plot summary suggests a slightly nonsensical children's show. The musical is based on the stories of Dr. Seuss so that offers one explanation. A lot of the spoken dialogue has been left in verse form as per the original books. I think Seussical falls into the same category with shows like Honk in which adults run around the stage in costume, pretending to be animals and therefore just hearing about the show it may be difficult to take it seriously. This particular version was a shorter, one-act version of the original as it was aimed at children. However, it was brilliant fun to watch for someone my age also and I think the longer version, which we will be performing at university, has a lot of potential to appeal to a slightly older audience.

I was surprised to find that Ste Clough, who has taught me dance workshops, was playing the main character. I had a brief chat with him afterwards and, incredibly, he did remember me! I haven't seen him on stage before so it was a fun experience. He did a good job of the mellow Horton.
I was amazed at the extent to which Mayzie had been made stripper-like considering the target audience of the show, but this polarisation was perhaps seen as essential in order to establish the opposing personalities of Mayzie and Gertrude, who, in turn, was presented as shy and geeky, wearing dull clothes. Mayzie was dressed in bright red. Even though the set was simple and the actors were not wearing animal outfits, colours had been used effectively throughout in compensation and the show was a great example of how obvious colour choices can take you far in conveying a message.

This was my first time visiting the Arts Theatre and I fell in love with its intimate atmosphere. When I got round to booking my ticket, there weren't many left and I did not get much choice with my seat so I did not expect much in terms of the view but it was absolutely fine. I should think that almost every seat in the auditorium grants a great view. The small size of the theatre made it essential that the cast be small. It consisted of 12 members in total with supporting characters doubling up but with the smoothness of the costume changes there may as well have been half a dozen more actors. The ensemble work was great.

Overall I enjoyed the show but I think understanding the story and the characters fully would have been very difficult for someone not familiar with it at all beforehand. I overheard one lady in conversation in the foyer after the show saying that she and her children were very familiar with the stories of Dr Seuss and for them the show had made perfect sense. This was in response to another lady who had been left slightly confused by the whole thing having not read any of the original books. A day in the library reading through all of the Dr Seuss books will be my next stop in preparation for our own production.

1 comment:

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