The last time “Seussical the Musical” was performed in the Berkeley Playhouse, Teala Volkamer (Cindy Michoo Who) viewed the performance from a seat next to her parents in the audience. This time, the teenage Volkamer joined a cast that ranged from toddlers to adults and took the stage proving, in the words of Horton the Elephant, that an actor is an actor “no matter how small.”
“Seussical” opened on Saturday, July 9th and will be playing through Sunday, August 14th. The musical by Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty features a conglomerate of Dr. Seuss’s stories with special influence from “Horton Hears a Who!”
If you seek a dose of childhood nostalgia, this is the musical for you. The musical alludes to all the Dr. Seuss classics that remind viewers of the days when their parents would tuck them in, kiss them good night, and read them a bedtime story. “Seussical”’s story is challenging to follow, however, as it carries out three separate plotlines that barely connect.
The music of “Seussical” is charming and reflects the themes of Dr. Seuss himself, however it becomes repetitive when the actors sing the same song five or six times throughout the show as they do with “Alone in the Universe” and “How Lucky You Are.”
Although the quality of Ahrens’ and Flaherty’s musical is low due to a confusing plot and overly repetitive tunes, the actors of Berkeley Playhouse gave noteworthy performances. The heavily animated choreography, along with the general demeanor of the actors, compensated for the lackluster storyline. William Hodgson delivered an incredibly charismatic appearance as the Cat in the Hat. Benjamin Pither (Horton), Rebecca Pingree (Gertrude McFuzz), and Sarah Mithcell (Mayzie) also stole the show with their renditions and brilliant vocals.
Everything about “Seussical” is goofy — from the demeanor of the cast, to the costumes and stage design, and even the music. The set emulates a jungle gym that would cause any elementary-schooler to wet his pants in excitement. Nicole C. Julien’s (Sour Kangaroo) knocked some people out of their chairs with her endearing solos.
In two hour-long acts, “Seussical”, with its many eccentricities consistent with Seuss’s books, manages to make audiences chuckle a few times and its goofy costumes keep children engaged in their awe and amazement. However, the overall quality of the show fall short because the foundation of “Seussical” as a musical itself lacks depth and intrigue.
Therefore, it is not the performance that casts a shadow over “Seussical.” In fact, the acting, singing, and set is exceptional for community theater. Rather, “Seussical” lacks the captivating plot and music that makes musicals memorable. Unless you desperately desire a ticket back to Whoville and a bombardment of Dr. Seuss references, steer clear.