CRT brings Dr. Seuss to the stage

By Melanie Savage - Staff Writer
Storrs - posted Tue., Jun. 21, 2011
Contributed
Jojo (Noah Zachary) magically meets The Cat in the Hat (Bradford Scobie) in Connecticut Repertory Theatre’s Summer Nutmeg Series production of 'Seussical the Musical,' playing through June 26 in the Nafe Katter Theatre, Storrs. Photo by Gerry Goodstein. - Contributed Photo

If you grew up reading Dr. Seuss books, you'll get a kick out of “Seussical The Musical,” playing through June 26 at the Nafe Katter Theatre on the UConn campus.

Horton the Elephant is the central figure in the storyline of the musical, the second in the Nutmeg Summer Series presented by the Connecticut Repertory Theatre.

The songs aren't particularly memorable, save the opening number “Oh the Thinks You Can Think!” But they're pleasant enough, and transcend a variety of genres, including Latin, pop, swing, gospel and funk. And the ensemble cast of 10 performs them beautifully.

Comedian Steve Hayes aptly captures the main character's good-hearted innocence, as Horton faces the dual challenge of defending the tiny world of Whoville, while simultaneously looking after the egg left behind by the irresponsible Mayzie LaBird. Hayes has a pleasant voice, which is especially nice in Horton's duet with JoJo in “Alone in the Universe.”

Jojo, the little boy with a big imagination, is played by UConn graduate Noah Zachary (2010 BFA in acting). Zachary does innocent exuberance so well, at times you almost believe he's really 8 years old.

Guiding the audience through Horton's adventure is the Cat in the Hat, played by Bradford Scobie. Scobie is a comedic chameleon, aptly moving between personas and styles as he narrates the action.

Allyssa Schmitt is adorable as Gertrude McFuzz, Horton's friend and neighbor who never loses faith in “his kind and powerful heart.”

Amani Dorn stands out for her powerful voice as Sour Kangaroo.

Rachel Rosado, another recent UConn grad, is brash and powerful as the irresponsible party-girl, Mayzie LaBird.

Though cast member experience levels range from current BFA candidates to performing pros, you'd be hard-pressed to pick out the amateurs based on talent alone. There isn't a weak member in the ensemble.

The set for the CRT production is cleverly spare, with the stage painted in familiar, psychedelic Seussian fashion. A series of moveable platforms disguised as bookshelves host most of the action, moved around by cast members to serve as a bed, a bathtub, and other required items. Displayed on the shelves are the many Seuss books that find their way into the production. Reportedly there are a total of 17, including “One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish,” “Yertle the Turtle and Other Stories,” “McElligot's Pool,” “If I Ran the Circus,” and of course, “Horton Hears a Who.”

Another nice touch is the production's puppets. Especially memorable are the very large fish, one with moving eyes that dominate one of the production numbers.

“Seussical The Musical” is lots of fun, and appropriate for all ages. At opening night on June 17, there were children as young as 4 who appeared to be thoroughly entertained. It's especially nice that the actors make liberal use of the aisles during the show, making little ones feel like they're actually part of the action. Throughout the show's run, tickets for children are $10.

“Seussical the Musical” runs through June 26 at the Nafe Katter Theatre. On July 7, CRT's Summer Series concludes with “My Fair Lady,” starring Broadway legend Terrence Mann. “My Fair Lady” runs through July 17. Call 860-486-4226 for tickets or more information, or visit the website www.crt.uconn.edu.

In collaboration with the CRT production of “Seussical the Musical,” the William Benton Museum of Art at UConn is presenting a retrospective of works by Dr. Seuss, a.k.a. Theodore Geisel. For more information, visit www.thebenton.org.


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