The local community theaters in the South Puget Sound are doing a wonderful job with light-hearted entertainment during the Holiday season. Managing Artistic Directors around the region scheduled fun and frolic to go with eggnog and Christmas shopping. There will be plenty of time for darkness and dread. Charlie Brown's backup choir sang it best. "Christmas time is here. Happiness and cheer. Fun for all that children call. Their favorite time of year." In the Spirit of joy (but with an important message underneath the fluff) Tacoma Little Theatre opened "Seussical" Friday evening. The large cast delivered the goods and the appreciative audience stood in ovation and clapped along with the curtain calls. It is a play worth seeing, more than once if the cloudy December skies have a hold on the soul. "Seussical The Musical" continues through Christmas Eve. What a night to close the show! Friday and Saturday evening shows begin at 7:30 p.m. Sunday matinees start at 2 p.m.
Part-narrator and part provocateur, The Cat in the Hat leads the proceedings with a jaunty high-step and innocent eyes belying mischief abundant. Christopher Sweet plays the felonious feline and does a great job. This is Mr. Sweet's debut performance on this stage and Casting Directors willing, it will not be his last. Tall and slender in his walking around mode, Mr. Sweet looked eight feet tall in his elongated chapeau. He was a great choice by Director Jen York, whose touch was deft throughout the brisk show that runs ten minutes short of two hours.
Choreographer Eric Clausell works in "Seussical The Musical" with a great variety of performers and skill sets. Some professional dancers were on stage. Some non-professional stompers were on the stage, as well, following the beat by a quarter step and skipping some of their assigned movements. It was all good. Actually, the missed steps added to the endearing quality of the show.
In Seussical the Musical, a great cat without a good supporting cast isn't a show. It's a sad and solo performance. Fortunately, Christopher Sweet's co-performers lit up the night with rhyme and/or reason.
Among the standout performances, one was by Steve Barnett in the role of Horton the Elephant. This isn't Mr. Barnett's first time around with Dr. Seuss' pachyderm. He played him in a TYA show a couple of years ago with Tacoma Family Theater. Horton is a vitally important part of the messaging inherent in this show. At a time in this country, when so many people feel disenfranchised and upset at current events, Horton teaches us to carry on. Horton may not be the brightest beast in the forest, but he's good, kind, loyal, and persevering. He will defend the world unseen, and he will prevail. Steve Barnett, by all indications, is a man of good heart, and a more apt Horton couldn't have been found.
Playing the role of young JoJo is young Alexandria Bray. A sixth-grader when not lighting up local stages, Miss Bray appeared on the TLT in the role of Baby June in "Gypsy" on this stage. She is a very promising performer, holding her own vocally with older, more experienced, singers. She has a bright future in the local theater scene, should she choose to continue. One hopes she does so choose.
Brittany Griffins interprets the role of Gertrude McFuzz with a joyful spirit and great skill! She is the best singer of the bunch and has true comic timing. Her program bio shows a young lady whose star is rising and who is getting larger and more prominent roles. She deserves all that is coming to her and this show does nothing to detract from her career ascendance.
Competing with Brittany Griffins for the show's best singing voice is Courtney Eggert as Sour Kangaroo. Ms. Eggert matriculated at Marin School of the Arts in the North Bay and learned her craft well in that competitive environment. The South Sound is lucky to have her in the area, and Jen York is lucky to have her in this show.
In a small, but meaningful role is Andrew Fry as the Grinch. Mr. Fry is a local stage veteran who was an award nominee a couple of years ago for his performance in "A Christmas Story" on this very stage. He is doubly blessed in this part. He plays it well and gets to perform with daughter Maddie, who does really well as Purple Bird Girl.
Resident Property Manager Jeffery Weaver casts magic dust on this show with the props that populate the stage. Horton's tiny people are in a plant that looks just like such a plant should look. Weaver's props and Michele Graves' costumes (particularly the Hunch's costumes) add value and texture to the show.
What could be better? Those who attend a matinee will have tons more "Awwww" in their afternoon than the Opening Night crowd had in their evening. Three-month-old Hazel Barnett plays Elephant Bird in her Daddy's arms at the afternoon shows. What a memory for her parents and those who see her debut. Without a hint of a doubt, her first show will not be her last.
Tickets to "Seussical" are to be found on the Tacoma Little Theatre ticketing site. Of course, operators will be glad to take reservations at 253-272-2281. Make plans to include TLT and this stellar cast in Holiday festivities.