Seussical, presented by PCPA. At Santa Maria’s Marian
Theatre, Saturday, November 25. Shows through December 21.

Reviewed by D.J. Palladino

use_this_actually.jpgIt’s always dangerous to cast children
in plays, and more dangerous if they have talent and charisma. I
bet Erika Olsen didn’t mean to steal the show from the PCPA
regulars, but her relationship with the audience was so direct and
ingenuous that when she leapt and threw out her hands to present
some simple stage magic, the crowd reacted with gasps. Part of the
reason, no doubt, is that we would rather watch a youngster be
prodigious than witness adults acting in predictably silly ways
that seem calculated to touch the alleged child in all of us. The
PCPA grownups aren’t bad, but none of them rise to the level of
Olsen. Somehow, the ensemble is much stronger than its parts.

Basically, Seussical is a mash up of Theodor Seuss Geisel’s
masterpieces for minors: Horton Hears a Who! and Horton Hatches the
Egg being the primary material upon which is festooned bits from
Yertle the Turtle, The Cat in the Hat, and I Had Trouble in Getting
to Solla Sollew, among others. The mix includes many songs — some
with the compelling whimsy of Seuss — and much fine dancing.

The play, which most kids will like, boasts great Things One and
Two, Seuss-like sets, and cool effects. It’s probably not the arc
of the story your kids will most enjoy. Seuss himself might have
made a better musical; this is a little artificial. The second half
of the evening far outshines the first because the finale’s music
makes the play seem pointed, whereas the first act’s themes hang
like Whoville on pieces of fluff. I did not like Michael
Jenkinson’s Cat in the Hat, and David Studwell’s Horton was fun but
a little too simple for a focal point. Heidi Ewert’s vampy big bird
was a lot more Auntie Mame than Daisy Maizie. But finally, the
credits rest on Olsen’s diminutive shoulders. “A person is
important,” says the musical, “no matter how small.” In this show,
one small person is more than important; she’s crucial. n


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