Review / Seussical – Joseph Rowntree Theatre, York

cat in hat

Casting my mind back to when I was knee high to a grasshopper, my mother encouraged me to read Dr Seuss’ mind-bogglingly eccentric stories of cats in hats and green eggs and ham. They rather puzzled me, so I was intrigued to know how a musical version of the books would work on a Yorkshire stage.

To answer this, We Are Theatre, in a departure from directing their own work, admirably took on the challenge of producing Seussical. This surreal adventure for all the family was originally penned by Stephen Flaherty and Lynn Ahrens, based on the original books by Theodor Seuss Geisel and apparently co-conceived by Eric Idle. As you might expect, the action involves, amongst other things, an elephant, the famous hatted cat, a small world that is embedded in clover and birds who crave longer tails and eschew motherhood.

With a cast of fifty from a baby of only a few months to actors in their sixties, a truly diverse collection of characters spilled onto the stage. We meet a boy and a cat in the opening scene, (stalwart and impressive performances from Harry Russell and Jack Hambleton) who will plunge us into the story of Whoville, just a speck of dust on a clover and the jungle of Nool.  While the boy – Jojo, aided and abetted by the Cat – explores the world of his imagination, he becomes part of it.  Meanwhile a kindly elephant sets out to nurture the world of Whoville and keep it safe.  The heartwarming motto of the show is: “a person’s a person, no matter how small.”

Excellent choreography ensured the troupe of dancers and the cast in general radiated the joy of these themes, as they danced and belted out the show’s quirky numbers.

Their dedication shone through to present us with a colourful and zany journey through the jungle and the microcosmic world of Whoville. There were some sensational and charismatic performances in particular from Josh Sissons and Becky Warboys (Mr and Mrs Mayor), Kiera Pollard (Mayzie La Bird) and Mikhail Lim (Horton the Elephant). Also highly enjoyable cameos were provided by Adrian Spendlow (the inimitable Grinch) and John Morgan (General Gengus Khan Schmitz), a barking army man who wants to send children into battle.

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As you can tell just from the names, even if you weren’t already familiar with Dr Seuss, this is a fun show, but underneath the sparkle, it’s a good old-fashioned tale of loyalty, heroism and the triumph of make believe.

We Are Theatre’s Charlotte Gray and Donna Riley have yet again brought York an upbeat and entertaining show and proved they can rise to a challenge.

You can catch the Seussical express to wacky fantasy from 25th -27th June, 730 pm. Also there is a matinee performance on 27th June at 230 pm. Oh – and just in case you too remember the books – you’re never too old to watch a Grinch or a Cat in a Hat so do go along. You might just rediscover your inner creative child!

 

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