No matter how long and hard I think, I cannot figure out why "Seussical! The Musical" creators Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty claim complicated and busy choreography makes it harder to follow their show's story.
Dance sequences in Mercury Summer Stock's production of Seussical, which plays through Aug. 25, are hardly simple. Yet, I could follow the story just fine, thank you as I am sure was the case for other members of the audience. In fact, the choreography in this production is quite imaginative and imagination is one of Seuss' major themes.
Specifically, the power of imagination and the good that it can do: If it weren't for Jojo's "Thinks", the Whos would not survive in this story, where everybody lives happily ever after.
That fairy-tale ending is part of the appeal of Seussical!, a magical, bright show which whisks us away from our worries. Ahrens and Flaherty have kept Seuss' clever rhyming schemes and added cheery, hummable songs appropriate for this lighthearted, focused show. The musical numbers range in style from Latin to pop to r&b to traditional broadway ballads.
It would have been easy for show creators Ahrens and Flaherty to loosely string some of Seuss' stories together and add music, but that is hardly what they have done. The musical is based on many of Seuss' stories, but its central focus is the tales of Horton and Jojo.
Horton, a giant elephant, hears tiny people called "Whos," and though they are invisible, he insists they exist and deserve respect. Horton's jungle mates ridicule him for protecting the Whos on a clover leaf, and insist the Whos really do not exist.
Jojo, meanwhile, is a young boy who constantly thinks and gets himself into trouble as a result.
Jojo and Horton's stories intersect logically, and happily at the end, warming our hearts just as Dr. Seuss himself has done for ages.
Like a small portion of green eggs and ham lessening the quality of an otherwise hearty meal, the Mercury Summer Stock's largely fulfilling production of Seussical! The Musical, is brought down a notch by a couple flaws.
The production, based on the stories of famed children's author Dr. Seuss plays through Aug. 25 at Parma High School.
The shortcomings begin with director Pierre-Jacques Brault's interpretation of The Whos, characters so small they are invisible.
They might be tiny and vulnerable and live on a planet named Whoville, but they're not strange little aliens; they are people like everyone else, with the same concerns, hopes and dreams. Yet, the actors playing the Whos walk in small, rapid steps and talk in abnormally high-pitched voices, as though they were straight from outer space.
Dan Dicello is not large enough as Horton the Elephant, the huge creature who vows to protect the Whos. Dicello fails to convey warmth or sincerity in the first act, but eventually comes to embody Horton's warm-hearted, tender demeanor.
Miles Sternfeld, a 12-year-old pint-sized boy of perpetual motion, plays the inquisitive Jojo with lit-up eyes, and a high-pitched voice.
Kelvette Beacham is another standout, oozing attitude and brashness as Sour Kangaroo the loudmouth who shrugs off Horton's contention that the Whos exist. Beacham, a plump woman sporting curly, dark hair and glittering jewelry, commands the stage in the role.
Daniel Marshall's thoroughly mischievous, spontaneous and hilarious Cat in the Hat will have you in stitches You just never know where this "Cat" will end up.
Quite possibly on a patron's lap, as was the case during Saturday night's performance.
Marshall's antics, combined with some eclectic choreography and performances, combine to create a mix of comedy and vivacity that is hard to beat.
IF YOU GO
WHAT: "Seussical! The Musical"
WHEN: 7:30 p.m. today, Friday and Saturday, as well as Aug. 22, 23, 24 and 25
WHERE: Parma High School, 6285 West 54th St., Parma.
HOW MUCH: For ticket information, call (216) 771-5862