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Seussical review at Southwark Playhouse, London – ‘a colourful production’

Marc Pickering and the cast of Seussical at Southwark Playhouse, London. Photo: Adam Trigg
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It’s based on a good idea – to take the books and worlds of Dr Seuss and mash them into a musical – but Seussical has never been a great show. In its full version it’s way too long, and in its short version – as here – it’s essentially just a 75 minute medley of semi-catchy songs.

Lyricist Lynn Ahrens and composer Stephen Flaherty, who also wrote Ragtime and Anastasia, have concocted some decent numbers to go with the nonsensical plot about the power of imagination, but it’s way too saccharine.

That’s a fault of the musical, not the production which, like Dr Seuss’s books, explodes with rhyme and colour.

Marc Pickering is always a joy to watch, and playing his second cartoon character of the year – after Bananaman’s villain Dr Doom in the same space in January – his Cat in the Hat is a delight: gurning and mischievous. Wven if the role doesn’t give Pickering much of a chance to use his voice, it allows him to show his huge versatility as an entertainer.

His zaniness is augmented by Chris Whittaker’s frenzied and full-bodied choreography. Almost every moment sees the stage full of performers dancing wildly and impressively in sync.

Rachel Cartlidge’s costumes are lovely, too, with just hints towards the animals these characters are based on – a bumbag for the kangaroo, a long grey tie for Horton the elephant. Scott Paige’s Horton and Amy Perry’s Gertrude have two of the strongest voices and form a sweet relationship.

But even though James Tobias’ production is great, it can’t quite compensate for the fact that the musical itself is just a bit empty. Its bouncy music and intensely saccharine message that “a person’s a person no matter how small” feel all surface.

 

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Verdict
Strong and colourful production that elevates a mediocre musical based on the books of Dr Seuss
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