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Review: 'Seussical' offers fun for everyone

Circus performers surround Horton the Elephant, played by Tom Sweitzer, and his spotted egg in "Seussical" at the Shenandoah Summer Music Theatre. The musical continues through July 18. Courtesy photo (Buy photo)

By John Horan Jr. -- jhoran@nvdaily.com

WINCHESTER -- The Shenandoah Summer Music Theatre's "Seussical" is a rollicking foray into the imaginary world of Dr. Seuss, the iconic children's author. The action and music are nonstop, the sets and costumes a riot of colors.

"Seussical" is a multimedia extravaganza, a virtual theme park with constant diversions to banish even a hint of boredom. Stuff happens -- incessantly, relentlessly -- in this kinetic production, directed by Harold Herman and Robin Higginbotham.

Most of the good doctor's most famous characters -- The Cat in the Hat, Horton the Elephant, the Grinch -- are present, live, their stories woven into a single narrative. But the yarn, mostly about Horton's devotion to the Whos and his determination to hatch the egg he's been entrusted with, matters less than what surrounds it.

The show's tumult of energy is personified by The Cat. Bursting with feline mischief, he's almost a constant presence, materializing even in the audience and in surprising guises, including talk show host, Sotheby's auctioneer, Louis Armstrong impersonator and orchestra conductor.

The role is a comic actor's dream and the estimable Rick Wesley revels in it. His vivid, engaging portrayal showcases his versatility as actor, singer and dancer.

The large cast, colorfully clad in Cheryl Yancey's imaginative costumes, brims with energy and deftly handles Higginbotham's vigorous, light-hearted choreography.

In contrast to the frenetic frivolity is Tom Sweitzer's Horton, a plaintive soul, put upon by the jungle denizens and, though sold to a circus, resolute about doing the right thing.

Blake O'Brien is a charming JoJo, the Who boy who is prone to thinking. Tamara Young is the winsome Gertrude McFuzz, the drab bird who comes to regret her wish for more plumage. Kevin Selwyn and Libby Ingham are the nerdish Mr. and Mrs. Mayor and Jeff Mueller the martial General Genghis Khan Schmitz.

Vocal pyrotechnics are supplied by Tara Michelle Newenski as Mayzie La Bird and Galyana Castillo as the Sour Kangaroo.

Stephen Flaherty provides the mostly pulsating music replete with quirky touches. Lynn Ahrens' lyrics mimic Seussian couplets.

William Pierson's sets are fluid: Backdrops rise and fall and characters glide around the stage on mobile scaffolding and even a bathtub on wheels. Wm. McConnell Bozman's lighting is equally bold and clever.

"Seussical" continues at the Ohrstrom-Bryant Theatre through July 18. The box office phone number is 665-4569.


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