Pros: A kid-friendly script and performance time make the classic a great holiday outing for the family.
Cons: The abridged production lacks a full orchestra and comes off a bit stale.
This month, The Arts Theatre offers matinees and limited evening performances of Seussical (Theatre for Young Audiences Version). You might guess that Seussical, a romp through the delightful and colorful rhymes of Dr. Seuss, is already a great family choice, but the version which the Arts Theatre presents is a shorter, more straightforward production than the full script, making it an excellent and easy choice for an afternoon family outing this holiday season.
It’s hard not be enthralled by the magic of Seuss stories, with their delectable bizarreness and moving messages about humanity at large. The production at the Arts Theatre interweaves several Seuss classics into its plotline. The infamous Cat in the Hat serves as narrator and guide to the tiny young Who, Jojo, whose planet, also called Who, is discovered in a clover field by the elephant Horton. Poor Horton is ridiculed by his jungle friends for hearing the Whos, but being the faithful elephant that he is, he tries to help the intimidated community to safety, standing by his mantra that “A person’s a person, no matter how small.” The script focuses on Horton and his friend’s adventures; in addition to the Who plotline, we watch Horton abandoned to care for his bird friend Maisy’s egg, while his other feathered friend Gertrude hopes to win his love. The different storylines teach messages about tolerance, loyalty, and self-confidence. The cut for young audiences is seamless, easy to follow, and will be great for families to enjoy and learn from.
While it’s a great idea to treat your kids to this short afternoon show, adults who want a fun and light-hearted theatre evening for themselves might look elsewhere. The show is definitely aimed directly at children and is not up to par with other child-centric shows available on the West End as far as execution goes. Adult viewers not catering to children will notice the shortcomings. Using an audio track as opposed to a live orchestra hurt the energy and spectacle of the show overall, and while the chorus numbers featuring the whole cast were delightful, much of the principal cast appeared to be overacting or not fully committed.
The set is appropriate and functional – colorful, and open to be used by the ensemble cast. The best moments of the show were those when the entire stage was populated by the quirky inhabitants of Seuss’s stories that make up the chorus – in these larger numbers the energy spiked and the sense of fun which is the show’s real strength was at its highest point.
Costume design was another accomplishment of the production. Whimsical but practical outfits suggested animals without overdoing it or overcrowding the stage. This made it simple for lots of movement to take place during those big chorus numbers I mentioned earlier.
All in all, Seussical at the Arts Theatre accomplished exactly what I believe it sets out to do: to offer a fun and light afternoon at the theatre for families. Seussical only shows in the evening on Mondays, but offers matinees during the rest of the week, so it’s a great way to get the kids out for the day during holiday breaks.
Music: Stephen Flaherty
Lyrics: Lynn Ahrens
Director: Kirk Jameson
Box Office: 020 7836 8463
Booking Link: http://artstheatrewestend.co.uk/whats-on/seussical-the-musical/
Booking Until: 5th January 2014