In his lifetime, Theodor Seuss Geisel created a plethora of fantasy characters under the pseudonym of Dr. Seuss. Many of them are incorporated in the musical "Seussical," now on view at the Huntington Beach Playhouse.
It's a sprawling, lighthearted celebration of "the thinks you can think" with a huge cast composed chiefly of younger talents and targeted to youthful minds and hearts. At its core, it's a glorious celebration of the imagination.
Dr. Seuss imagined a great deal of memorable characters during his long and colorful career, and many of them are incorporated in this show, sprightly directed and choreographed by Arthur L. Ross with musical direction by Kathryn Percival.
There's the mischievous Cat in the Hat (Erica Beck), Horton the big-hearted elephant (Bobby Bennett), the skimpy-tailed bird Gertrude McFuzz (Stacee Tweedlie), the Sour Kangaroo (Julie Robbins) and the showy, self-centered bird Mayzie (Amie Bjorklund), just to name a few. They're woven quite convincingly into a delicious musical confection.
Beck, as the ringmistress of this imaginative circus, is perfectly cast, flitting in and out of the action with an infectious flair and verve as she guides young JoJo (an appealing Austin Bullivant) on a storybook journey and inserts him into the action as well.
The show's basic plot line comes from Seuss' "Horton Hears a Who," in which the gentle pachyderm endeavors to save a race of tiny people. As he says (incessantly), "A person's a person, no matter how small." Bennett brings this caring character to joyous life.
Outstanding in support is Tweedlie's glum Gertrude, whose superior singing voice is a musical highlight. She's a terrific contrast to Bjorklund's brash, unfeeling Mayzie, who leaves Horton to hatch her egg while she parties on, and the quite sour Robbins, who's an effective downer with minimal impact.
Three of Seuss' prime characters are skillfully interpreted by the same actor. Brian Nguyen cuts a wide swath as the military leader General Genghis Khan Schmitz, while also doing cameo duty as the Christmas-stealing Grinch and Yertle the Turtle, who turns up as the judge in Horton's "trial." The familiar "Green Eggs and Ham" rhyme is used as Schmitz's military cadence chant.
Percival's recorded music keeps the show bouncing along, although sometimes it's a bit overzealous, drowning out the kids' lyrics. On opening night, this occurred primarily in the opening act, but was softened in the second.
Anyone who's concerned about the future of local theater need only drop in to "Seussical" to find that this future is in young and quite capable hands at the Huntington Beach Playhouse.
TOM TITUS reviews local theater for the Independent.
If You Go
Where: Huntington Beach Playhouse, Library Theater, 7111 Talbert Ave., Huntington Beach
When: 8 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays, and 2 p.m. Sundays through Aug. 7
Cost: $18 to $20
Information: (714) 375-0696 or http://www.hbplayhouse.com