Anderson University opens its newest theatrical season this weekend with a children’s show that should appeal to older generations as well.
After all, with source material as fun and timeless as the Dr. Seuss books, it would take a true Grinch to watch “Seussical” and not crack a smile.
The two-act musical directed by Laurel Goetzinger is an amalgamation of several Seuss books smashed together in the imagination of young boy played by Samuel McKanney. The plot centers around Horton the Elephant (Theodore Hicks), the do-gooder star of the books, “Horton Hears a Who” and “Horton Hatches the Egg.” The Cat in the Hat (Alvin J. Morrison) also plays prominently, acting as tour guide through the land of Seuss.
The Cat and the boy travel through water, jungle and towns encountering a swarm of dancing and singing Seussian characters. The story moves quickly at times, often with no sense of transition, which could befuddle younger audience members. But regardless of age, anyone familiar with theses stores should enjoy seeing them on stage.
As might be hoped for with a whimsical production like “Seussical,” the costumes are a knockout. Set and costume designer Brandon Kirkham and makeup designer Catherine Miller create a colorful batch of human and animal outfits that range from genteel formal wear for the Whos to wild ensembles with leather pants and heavy black boots for the mix of jungle creatures.
The cast and crew were still ironing out a few technical glitches during a dress rehearsal earlier this week, but the actors for the most part gave an impressive run through.
Strong performers play lead and as members of the ensemble. Leah Ashton Eger, a name people may know through her work with AU’s Orangehaus record label, belts out her numbers as Horton’s nemesis the Sour Kangaroo in homage to Aretha Franklin.
As Horton, AU junior Hicks portrays the gentle soul of that large, naïve creature. He also successfully performs some of the show’s few calm moments during songs that are personal mediations about his struggle to stick with his better judgment and not give into the peer pressure from others in the jungle.
Morrison as the Cat is also fun to watch. The part requires a lot of dexterity: humor, physicality and a decent singing voice. Luckily, it’s all there as the Cat beefs up the comedy in almost all of his scenes.
Another gem of the show is senior Debbie Fights as Gertrude, the slim-tailed bird who also pines for Horton. Maybe it’s easy to play the sweet lovefool, but Fights pretty much nails it. She’s doesn’t appear to hold anything back out of fear of being overly playful. If there’s a character that the kids will love, it’s hers.
But parents should not feel like the show has nothing to offer them. If reading Seuss before bed was ever a tradition in your house, whether you were the reader or the one being read to, you’ll leave “Seussical” with a fresh understanding of genius behind those stories.
If you go...
“Seussical” at Anderson University’s Boze Lyric Theatre
Based on the works of Dr. Seuss. Directed by Laurel Goetzinger
Byrum Hall, Anderson University
Friday through Sunday and Oct. 18 and 19
Friday show at 7:30 p.m., Saturday shows at 2:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m., Sunday matinees at 2:30 p.m.
Tickets are $12 for adults, $10 for military and seniors, $5 for students
For tickets, call the Byrum box office at (765) 641-4351
— Barrett Newkirk is a reporter for the Herald Bulletin. Story republished with permission.
Anderson University is a private Christian university of 2,700 undergraduate and graduate students in central Indiana. Anderson continues to be recognized as a top Christian college: in 2008, U.S. News and World Report ranked Anderson University among the best colleges and universities in the Midwest for the fourth consecutive year. Established in 1917 by the Church of God, Anderson University offers more than 65 undergraduate majors and graduate programs in business, education, music, nursing and theology.