Presented by Northern Light Theatre Company
Reviewed 12 October 2018
There’s an old entertainment adage that you should never work with children or animals. Stephen Tulip, in his directorial debut, has chosen to do both. The age of the cast seems to range from 0 – 100 but, as a success score, it would only be in the higher range of the scale.
It’s hard not to be swayed by a chorus of artistic kids. They steal your heart and attention, so it’s extra kudos to the adult cast who manage to steal some of that attention back onto themselves.
Suessical is a whimsical fantasy based on several Dr Seuss children’s books, not least of all being The Cat in the Hat, who narrates this play, and Horton Hears a Who! which is the primary storyline. It is a joyous, funny celebration of being true to yourself and helping others, told through the zany, nonsensical poetry and plots of Dr Seuss, as reimagined by Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty. The former also wrote the song lyrics while the later also wrote the music. Monty Python’s Eric Idle had a hand in conceiving this family musical too, which should forewarn any theatre goer of the play’s quirky nature.
Hats off to David Salter, whose flamboyant, foppish Cat in the Hat is an utter delight as he interferes in the story he narrates and gets up to all sorts of mischief while also managing to razzle dazzle in song. He’s only outdone by Sebastian Cooper as Horton the elephant who spends more time on stage and commands his every scene.
Sam Stringer is only 12 years old but knows how to play with the big boys. As the real hero of the story, he co-narrates until the Cat in the Hat throws him into the plot as Whovian JoJo. He’s got the talent and stage presence to go far if he so chooses and will be a force to reckon with in the years to come.
Anyone who doesn’t already know and love Amy Nagesh on stage will drown in affection for her as she breaks your heart playing lovelorn songbird Gertrude McFuzz. Along with Nagesh, Tegan Gully and Casmira Hambledon are sensational songstresses as selfish Mayzie La Bird and the troublesome Sour Kangaroo respectively.
There’s too many in the cast to name individually, but none are weak or disappointing. Special mention must be made however, of the two notable trios: that of the do-wop Bird Girls (Bek Hawke, Sash Elliott, Ava Cannard), and the simian Wickersham boys (Samuel James, Jacob Mitchell, Nathaniel Mason). These young trios worked beautifully and equally in their teams, demonstrating what fine ensemble work is about.
Bravo to Bec Mason’s orchestra which sounded polished and professional, and to Rose Vallen for her fun and energetic choreography. You can’t have a play like this without accolades for the costumes, designed by Merici Thompson. With such a consummate team behind him, director Stephen Tulip was onto a winner before he even began, but full credit to him for bringing such a vibrant and enjoyable vision to life and for keeping the pace moving at all times.
Seussical is a musical for all ages. Kids will love it as much as the adults. The night starts with Northern Light Theatre Company’s usual exemplary front of house volunteers and just keeps gets better.
Reviewed by Rod Lewis
Venue: Shedley Theatre, Elizabeth
Season: 12 – 20 October 2018
Duration: 2.5 hours with interval
Tickets: $20 – $30