3D Theatricals is presenting Seussical the Musical for one week only at The Redondo Beach Performing Arts Center. The production is directed and choreographed by David Engel and stars gymnast and former Peter Pan, Cathy Rigby, reprising her role as Cat in the Hat. This is the first time that the original Broadway show has been resurrected. When the show went on the road, much of the dialogue was changed, and “The Cat in the Hat Song” was cut. The musical has now been restored.
From the moment the surprisingly sexy animals prance into the jungle doing the pony, we follow the story of Horton and the Whos. Throughout the musical, the audience is transported between Horton’s world and the miniscule planet of Who, where we meet little JoJo. The ingenious use of a giant semi-transparent flat even allows us to occasionally watch both realities simultaneously. The storyline faithfully follows the narrative of “Horton Hears a Who,” while weaving in bits of other tales like “The Cat in the Hat,” “Green Eggs and Ham,” “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” and “Horton Hatches the Egg.” Sadly, the fox in socks is a no-show and absolutely no one hops on pop.
The set is simple, with the scene being established with props, lighting and imaginative choreography. There are some mesmerizing visuals and hilarious physical comedy. In particular, the “Follow Your Hunch” number is magical. We won’t spoil all of the surprises, but be aware that there is a “splash zone.”
Seussical’s catchy songs are based on books like “Did I Ever Tell You How Lucky You Are?” and “Oh, the Thinks You Can Think.” Young JoJo (Grant Westcott) has a gorgeous voice and even does some acrobatics himself. Down tempo numbers, which are mostly sung by Horton (Matthew Downs), work best as duets. The orchestra is lush and occasionally cartoonish, even throwing in the appropriate foley effects.
The choreography combines dances from every era since the Charleston. All of the dancing was first-rate; every single member of the chorus gave 100 percent. Cathy Rigby was just born to wear a body harness, and she performs some aerial acrobatics that are simultaneously thrilling and a little bit scary.
Cathy Rigby truly embraces the dual nature of the Cat. Although the Cat is always acting in JoJo’s best interest, it is often as a mischievous agitator or mythical trickster. Standouts in the cast are Amber J Snead as the mocking Sour Kangaroo and Melanie Mockobey as the lovelorn Gertrude McFuzz. Gregory North as General Genghis Kahn Schmitz does an admirable job of portraying the kind of blustering British military brass that John Cleese so famously parodied. Perhaps that is a bit of influence from Eric Idle, who co-conceived the show. Bird Girls Brittany Rose Hammond, Donna Louden and Adrianna Rose Lyons vamp up their parts with the panache of burlesque, definitely pleasing many dads in the audience (and some moms too).
We were a little concerned that some of the characters, like the black eagle, and the frequent use of darkness would frighten children, but a quick poll of parents in the lobby revealed that all of the children loved it. Even very small toddlers were entranced by the energy and music. Be warned, parents also commented on having to listen to the score about a million times in the car.
After all of the flying cats and pink feathery birds, after the elaborate dance numbers and breathtaking effects, the simple lessons of Dr. Seuss remain. Stick to your convictions in spite of peer pressure, never lose faith in the power of imagination, and always remember the importance of having someone who believes in you.