OREM — “When you think, do you dream?” asked Horton the Elephant.
“In bright colors!” replied Jojo the Boy.
The Hale Center Theater Orem dreamt just a big (and definitely just as colorful) when they put together their latest masterpiece Seussical: the Musical. The show features memorable characters—the Cat in the Hat, Horton the elephant, Gertrude McFuzz, the Wickersham brothers, and of course the Whos of Whoville—along with Jojo the boy as they explore the fantastic world of Dr. Seuss. The characters find plenty of conflict even in such a wonderful world as that of Seuss: Horton stumbles across the planet of Who which has been blowing in the wind on a piece of dust, and is subsequently thought to be crazy for talking to a speck. Gertrude McFuzz can’t get Horton’s attention, and attributes it to her one-feathered tail. Jojo keeps getting in trouble for his wild “thinks,” and everyone longs to feel like they aren’t alone in the universe.Director and choreographer Dave Tinney‘s choreography impeccably helped the story flow and come alive on the stage and was beautifully and energetically carried out by the actors. He must have had his work cut out for him with such an incredible cast! The Hale casting team did a phenomenal job placing the right actor in the perfect character. Honestly, I could write paragraphs about each character. They were all so great.
Horton, played by Jeremy Showgren, was my favorite of the evening. His desire to help the Whos and find someone who would understand him were full of pure sincerity; his voice was touching and his focus was unmatched. He was Horton the Elephant, and he desperately wanted to help the Who civilization. David Smith played a charming, charismatic, cheeky Cat in the Hat who (thankfully) stayed far away from any choices that could be labelled as “creepy.” His acting range was a perfect addition to this chameleon of a character, and he brought humor and rationale to many a scene. Anyone who knows me could tell you I’m not a crier, but Rachel Lynn Woodward brought tears to my eyes multiple times as she longed for Horton to notice her. Her dedication to her character was evident, and I’m so glad for all that she gave to bring Gertrude to life. Woodward is an adorable leading lady! However, it was probably sixth grader Austin Bigelow as Jojo the Boy that brought the most magic to this show. Bigelow made it easy to see the world of Dr. Seuss through the eyes of the child, being young himself. His pure voice and wide eyes rekindled the zeal of youth in each audience member.
I could go on and on about the rest of the cast, like Kelly Coombs‘s sassy Mayzie LaBird, Rachel Webster’s soulful Sour Kangaroo, the always-energetic Wickersham brothers (Scott Sackett, Alex King, & Cameron Garcia), the harmonious chorus of Bird Girls (Shae Hunsaker, Melissa Lindsey, & Julie Garcia), and the heartwarming Who citizens (Cam Cahoon, Aubrey Warner, & Justin Kennington; Cahoon & Warner made wonderfully strict but loving Who parents), but I’d rather everyone just go see for themselves!
Often continuous rhyming gets annoying, monotonous, and distracting, and as I left the theater it hit me that the whole show must have been made completely of rhymes, that being the Dr. Seuss style. I barely noticed any! I have to attribute this to excellent acting and direction–not to mention a great script to begin with. I also loved Tinney‘s direction: there was never a moment when the stage action was unbalanced or when there was a lack of some amount of spectacle. From puppetry to black lights to a breathtaking nightscape (during “Alone in the Universe”), Tinney used the small, restrictive Hale space incredibly well.
I’m always excited to see how the Hale will transform their space for a new show, and I have yet to be disappointed. Seussical featured a simple, but effective, design by Bobby Swenson, highlighted by Levi Larsen’s puppets, Cody Swenson’s gorgeous lighting design, and characters decked out in costumes, hair, and makeup by Maryann Hill, Janna Larsen, and Melinda Wilks. One of my favorite moments was during “McElligot’s Pool” when Jojo imagined being underwater; the fish—with help from some great great lighting—were mesmerizing and absolutely magical. The last moment of that song was straight out of every kid’s imagination, and I couldn’t help but grinning through the entire number. The costumes, designed by Hill, were gorgeous, full of whimsy, color, and surprises. From Horton’s elephant-skin pants to the birds’ leafy tails, I loved every clever detail. My one question to the production team, though, is why didn’t every animal have a tail? Regardless, the costumes complemented each character terrifically and helped the whole show feel like something out of a child’s fantasy.
I’m definitely seeing this show again. Tickets go fast for Hale shows, though, so hurry and get yours. This isn’t one to miss! Seussical not only tells a great story, but the Hale production flawlessly captures the innocence and limitlessness of childhood imagination. This musical is one that will without a doubt be enjoyed by any and every age. The show has something for everyone: comedy, drama, incredible singing, innovative costumes, special effects, the coolest black light nightmare sequence, and moments that will make everyone feel like a kid again.