I'm a children's book author, radio presenter of 'By the Book' for Radio Northern Beaches, and freelance writer. Check out www.brydiewright.com for more about
Masterful Mash-Up of Seuss Classics
To this day my love of rhyming prose comes from the great Dr Seuss, so when I heard Lane Cove Theatre Company (LCTC) had chosen Seussical Jr as its annual children's production, I jumped at the chance to see it. With 6-year-old son in tow, we gladly made the pilgrimage to Longueville, anticipating fun, laughter and typical Seussian mayhem. We were not to be disappointed.
There is something delightful about musical theatre for children, especially when it is performed by children. And when you combine this with a perfectly chosen piece that sings to its junior audience, you're in for a magical treat.
Seussical Jr is what you might best describe as a mash-up of all the best bits of Dr Seuss's stories for kids, told through song. There's Horton, the sensitive and kindly elephant from Horton Hears a Who, the mischievous yet charismatic Cat, from Cat In The Hat -fame, and a cast of recognisable Seussian cameo appearances throughout.
The music (by Stephen Flaherty), lyrics (by Lynn Ahrens) and book (by Ahrens and Flaherty) might be new to the audience, but the characters and their stories are etched in the collective psyche, so there is no way this musical could go too far wrong. Or could it? LCTC's Director Trent Gardiner, has taken on a big ask for his cast of young performers, many of whom are not all that much older than my six-year-old, and they live up to the classic hype of Seuss beautifully.
From primary school-aged, to teen performers, this ensemble cast is dedicated, talented and brimming with enthusiasm. St Aidan's Performing Space is an intimate theatre, with a relatively tight stage area, and the intelligence of the choreography (by Emma Ashley), stage management (by Sam Reilly) and set design (by Trent Gardiner) does not go unnoticed. You can tell the performers are thinking about the space, as well as pulling off engaging and entertaining performances. A lot to juggle and they do a terrific job.
Let's talk about the performances a little more... There's the larger-than-life Cat in the Hat narrator, played with humour and star quality by Jeremy Segal, matched wonderfully by the equally talented Josie Segal, who carries the emotional weight of the narrative, as the lovable Horton. There are also powerful supporting turns by Leah Francis as the faithful and determined Gertrude McFuzz, and the charming and glamorous bad girl, Mayzie La Bird, played by Madeleine Biddle.
Community theatre companies like LCTC provide excellent training grounds for young performers with potential, but it is also the strong focus on the chorus cast which makes Seussical Jr a joy to watch. All of the actors pulled their weight, with particularly memorable work from Hugo Allen as JoJo, Holly Miller and Valeria Gonzalez Lopez as Bird Girls and Danny Rees as the finale scene stealer The Elephant Bird.
With so many under 10s in the audience, their reaction to the show is really what matters most. They were all glued, wide-eyed to the colourful antics on stage, the well-paced action, the recognisable and memorable characters, and the emotionally engaging songs, with catchy refrains. At just under 90 minutes, the performance is the right length for kids and is a huge achievement for its cast of up-and-comers.
With multiple performances each weekend from now until 1st of December, I'm impressed by the LCTC's commitment to this production and the stamina of cast and pleased that there are more than enough opportunities for families all over the North Shore and beyond, to catch this wonderful afternoon of musical theatre.