|Tarnim Bybee (top), Ryan Usher (bottom), and Cast|
Photo by Daryl Webb/Grand Canyon University
"The cleverly rhyming, imaginary, and fantastical world of the Dr. Seuss children's books was turned into a big Broadway musical back in 2000. While it didn't run long on Broadway, the musical has gone on to find much success across the country, with productions continually presented in schools and regional theatres. Grand Canyon University just closed their production of the musical in a fine production that was colorful and energetic....Seussical uses the well-known characters of several of Theodore Geisel's books. The trio interweave The Cat in the Hat, Horton the Elephant and even the Grinch into a fun show with enough plot to keep older audience members interested, but easy enough for younger theatergoers to still have an enjoyable time. The show features a fun and varied score, with music by Flaherty and humorous lyrics by Ahrens that play off Seuss' famous rhymes....
The GCU cast was good in bringing the many beloved literary characters to life. Ryan Usher had a perfect sense of playfulness and mischief as The Cat in the Hat while Preston MacDonald projected a huge level of compassion as Horton. As Jojo, Bri HaNguyen brought a light-hearted spirit. The duet of "Alone in the Universe" that MacDonald and Ha-Nguyen shared was beautiful and moving.
Devaune Bohall was simply lovely as Gertrude McFuzz and Tarnim Bybee brought a superb singing voice and fun sensibility to Mayzie, a bird who tricks Horton into sitting on her egg to keep it warm while she goes on vacation. ...Director Michael Kary instilled the production with the playfulness and sense of imagination that are a major component of the Seuss books. ...While not everyone in the cast had a stellar singing voice they all sounded good thanks to music director Mark Feary....William H. Symington's set was stellar, full of the crazy angles, strange shapes, and wild colors just like the drawings in the Seuss books. Nola Yergen's beautiful costume designs were on par creatively with the set design and played off the imagination aspect of the books....Full of wit, imagination, and a big heart, Seussical at GCU was a crowd pleasing hit." -Gil Benbrook, Talkin' Broadway (click here to read the complete review)
"...Borrowing it's plot primarily from "Horton Hears a Who" and liberally sprinkling in a dozen or more other Seuss stories, the show is delightfully colorful, as GCU's frolicking playground-like set perfectly depicted. Teeming with fluffy truffula trees and hidden trapdoors, merry-go-round, slide and more, the fun thinks began percolating in little heads long before the houselights dimmed. The show, always, is good clever fun...The story, told almost exclusively in song, profited from impeccable enunciation born of quality collegiate choral coaching, too. As (director Michael) Kary hoped, its joy played effectively to youngsters and, as important, tugged mightily at the child within most every big person present. Splendidly comfortable in his own sly fur, campy Cat in the Hat, Ryan Usher, had eyes that truly gleamed with good-hearted mischief. ...The amorphous, nightmarish hunches of Jojo's (BriHa Nguyen) self-doubt were a great bit of costuming and choreography as well. All were sweet, cute and instructive in their message, as children's books and theatre so often are...GCU's Jojo, the mayor's son and story hero (along with Horton), defied traditional expectation. Nguyen's supreme innocence was so gently genuine in earnest pacifism and brilliant imagination that Jojo's fantastical scenarios smacked real. The audience couldn't help but be touched and reminded of their best selves.
...Tears, joyful or sentimental, are not the expected outcome of a traditionally presented "Seussical the Musical." Yet this production nonetheless seeped in to the tear ducts of us all. Adults with happy toddlers on lap and those grown enough to have college kids performing were fishing for tissues and wiping dampened cheeks. Even the college teen down front covered her face with a quick inhale of unexpected emotion in the final scene when the entire cast was onstage...."-Jennifer Haaland, Examiner.com (click here to read the complete review)