With richly lyrical text, a cast of crazy characters and some underlying “big thinks” for young minds, the stories of Dr Seuss make the perfect backdrop for an all-singing, all-dancing family show that positively fizzes with the feel-good factor.
The tale of Horton Hears A Who (made into a memorable animated feature film in 2008, starring Jim Carrey) is at the heart of Seussical The Musical, as the gentle giant of the Jungle of Noor seeks to save the unseen inhabitants of Whoville, who live in a tiny speck of dust.
The Cat In The Hat plays host and narrator to the ensuing drama, looking suitably dapper and debonair, with his distinctly devil-may-care air, while the rest of the cast help and hinder our heroic elephant in equal measure.
Warm, witty and thought-provoking, Seussical is a wonderful showcase for the brilliance of Dr Seuss’ writing,
with its underlying moral message
and philosophical ponderings delivered without pretensions but, rather, with playful wit
Though the subject matter certainly deals with some serious issues, the beauty is that it is never labored or preachy. Rather, there’s some brilliantly uplifting messages about tolerance and respect for others which should appeal to young children, with Horton’s recurrent refrain: “A person’s a person, no matter how small”. There’s also a sense of wonder and admiration at the power of a child’s imagination in the delightfully optimistic anthem “Oh, the thinks you can think of if only you try.”
Alongside Horton’s gentle pachyderm protagonist is his loyal friend, devotee and secret admirer, Gertrude McFuzz – a sweet figure who yearns to have a fabulous feathery tail in place of her own rather modest one (cue the plaintive song about “her droopy-droop feather… that made Gertrude so sad”). There’s also some more prickly characters to elicit “boos” and “hisses” as the bigoted Sour Kangaroo tries to convince everyone that Horton is mad, and the flamboyant sultry strutter Mayzie La Bird, who flounces off leaving Horton to look after her unhatched egg. And what a big surprise is waiting in store for Horton when it finally hatches…
Seussical, which debuted on New York’s Broadway in 2000 and was subsequently nominated for a Grammy Award, is a colourful family show in every way, with catchy sing-along tunes and lively toe-tapping dance-in-the-aisle style showstoppers. This production is a pared back version of the Broadway original – a reworking of the show that hones it to its brilliant best – and with a running time of just over an hour, is perfect theatre for a young audience.
The music is by Tony Award winning composer Stephen Flaherty and lyricist Lyn Ahrens, while Monty Python’s Eric Idle, who played the original Cat in the Hat, is credited with having contributed to the story line. This London show is produced by David Hutchinson and Phillip Rowntree and directed by Phillip Rowntree, designed by Richard Evans, and with lighting by Alexander Ridgers and choreography by Cressida Carrè.
Why go To marvel at the creativity and poetic genius of Dr Seuss, and for an hour of feel-good family entertainment.
Who is it best for All ages, but especially for fans of the good doctor.
Top Tip It’s the perfect excuse to dust down your favourite Dr Seuss books and indulge in a little theatrical read-aloud fun.
Our favourite bit We love the championing of Everyman and respect for all with the refrain: “A person’s a person, no matter how small.”
Don’t go If you’re a Grinch…
While You’re There You’re on the edge of Covent Garden, so take a stroll along Long Acre to the Piazza where you can admire the Christmas lights and see if you can spot the giant Rudolf keeping a watchful eye on all festivities.
ABOUT DR SEUSS Born on March 2, 1904 in Springfield, Massachusetts, the son of German immigrant parents, Seuss credited his mother Henrietta for giving him a lifelong love of rhythm and rhyme, as she dutifully read bedtime stories and recited rhymes to her young son.
As a playful proponent of children’s literature, Dr Seuss published 46 books, including classics The Cat In The Hat, Green Eggs And Ham, and How The Grinch Stole Christmas, yet his unconventional bold style and rebellious characters were not an instant hit. His first transcript was rejected by 27 publishers – it was deemed “too different“ with no obvious moral or message – before a chance meeting with a old friend from his days at Oxford University, now an editor, who recommended Seuss to his publisher.
The lasting legacy of Seuss, who died in 1991, is his pioneering approach to teaching young children to read. His mission was chiefly to entertain – “what’s wrong with children having fun reading without being preached at?” he once opined – and boost reader confidence. In his collection of Beginner Books (where the Cat in The Hat proudly proclaims ‘I Can Read It All By Myself’), the text never describes anything that is not replicated in the illustrations, helping children to work out the words using strong visual clues.
Did you know?
* Dr Seuss’ real name is Theodor Seuss Geisel. He took his nom de plume after being banned from contributing cartoons to his student newspaper at Dartmouth College for drinking prohibition liquor! He later also used the pseudonyms of Rosetta Stone and Theo LeSieg.
* One of Dr Seuss’ most popular books, Green Eggs and Ham, was the result of a bet that he could not write a book using only 50 words.
* Seuss’ rolling, rhyming text frequently uses anapestic meter, which is often used as the comic metre, for example, in limericks or Edward Lear’s nonsense poems.
* Dr Seuss birthday – March 2 – has been officially adopted as the annual celebration for National Read Across America Day. Now in its 17th year, the day will be celebrated on Monday 3 March 2014 as many of the events take place in schools that won’t be open on Sunday!