Seussical review at Southwark Playhouse, London – ‘a colourful production’
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.
We need your help…
When you subscribe to The Stage, you’re investing in our journalism. And our journalism is invested in supporting theatre and the performing arts.
The Stage is a family business, operated by the same family since we were founded in 1880. We do not receive government funding. We are not owned by a large corporation. Our editorial is not dictated by ticket sales.
We are fully independent, but this means we rely on revenue from readers to survive.
Help us continue to report on great work across the UK, champion new talent and keep up our investigative journalism that holds the powerful to account. Your subscription helps ensure our journalism can continue.