Home » And to think I saw it on Sutter Street: Magical ‘Seussical’ opens in Folsom
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And to think I saw it on Sutter Street: Magical ‘Seussical’ opens in Folsom

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These days, navigating Folsom’s deconstructed Sutter Street is a lot like mounting an expedition to the top of Mt. Crumpit during a midwinter jicker.

And while the moose-juiced weekend celebrants who rumble and stumble around the corners and against the lights of the historic district can be more awfully awful than any unreformed Grinch, there’s good reason not to zizz-zizz, but to jump on your Zike-Bike and brave the dirt roads and heavy machinery: the Sutter Street Theatre production of “Seussical,” now playing through Sept. 26.

An admittedly ambitious undertaking for such an intimate space, director Connie Mockenhaupt does well by her cast of 18 men, women and children (and they by her) in this unpretentious but wholly magical staging of Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty’s beautifully lyrical musical based on the books of Theodor Geisel, a.k.a. Dr. Seuss.

The stories and characters in “Seussical” are familiar friends: There’s true-blue Horton the Elephant, butt of jokes to his neighbors in the Jungle of Nool and hero to the tiny Whos; Gertrude McFuzz, the shy bird who suffers from tail envy; lazy Mayzie, the flighty party bird; JoJo, the young Who whose unappreciated “thinks” have garnered her a trip to military school; and that unconventional feline, the Cat in the Hat.

Ahrens and Flaherty have woven the Seussical canon into an entertaining and surprisingly touching show.

With his gift for nonsensical rhymes, unique vocabulary and social conscience, it would be easy to give full credit for the charm, wit and heart of “Seussical” to Dr. Seuss himself, but the Ahrens-Flaherty score is a thing of beauty, and evokes the emotional best of the team’s earlier, adult-oriented works (“Ragtime,” “Once On This Island”).

Alas, there are no live musicians blowing floops on their one-nozzled noozers, as the score is recorded, but the cast is expert at staying the course.

The voices on stage, uniformly well-directed by Susan Mason, are strong and passionate, with Martin Lehman as Horton, Jessica Larrick as Gertrude, Emily Kelly as Mayzie and young Cassidy Cagney as JoJo standouts. 

 

The more-dramatic numbers (the show is sung-through and tune-heavy) are expertly staged by Mockenhaupt and well-supported by Colin Hoyt and Mike Jimena’s lighting design.

But without solid acting chops, selling the songs would be impossible. It’s a kick to see the cast – from the more mature (the delightful Steve Read and Kristy Reed as Mr. and Mrs. Mayor), to among the youngest (Joanna Rehwald as Thing One, Who girl) offer wonderful characterizations throughout.

Joshua Brown’s Cat in the Hat is a master MC/narrator, providing exposition when necessary and giggles for fun.

Eileen Beaver’s costumes are bright and colorful and provide Brown’s Cat a bit of oomph as he morphs from one persona to another. Whether he’s a bluesy, gravelly voiced jazz pianist, a Germanic doctor or a Caribbean-flavored cabana boy, Beaver provides an appropriate tailcoat to complement the Cat’s trademark red-and-white-striped top hat.

All of the leads are so well cast and do such a sweet, sincere job in delivering the show’s positive messages that it’s easy to imagine them on a bigger stage in a grander venue.

But as one of the show’s more touching songs reminds, “A person’s a person – no matter how small.”

When it comes to Sutter Street’s production of “Seussical,” that sentiment definitely holds true for theaters as well.

__________

KNOW BEFORE YOU GO

WHAT: "Seussical," a musical based on the books by Dr. Seuss; conceived by Lynn Ahrens, Stephen Flaherty and Eric Idle; with book by Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty; music by Stephen Flaherty; lyrics by Lynn Ahrens

WHERE: Sutter Street Theatre, 717 Sutter St., Folsom, Calif.

WHEN: 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 4 p.m. Sundays, Aug. 20 through Sept. 26

WHO: Directed and choreographed by Connie Mockenhaupt; set design by Mike Jimena; lighting design by Colin Hoyt & Mike Jimena; costume design by Elieen Beaver; special effects by Allen Schmeltz; and featuring Cassidy Cagney, Joshua Brown, Martin Lehman, Steve Read, Kristy Reed, Jessica Larrick, Emily Kelly, Olivia Kaufmann, Brady Tait, Alyssa Simopoulos, Julia Rehwald, Emily Parker, Christopher Celestin, Tristan Bonds, Holly Wilson, Hayley Fitzpatrick, Joanna Rehwald, Angie Reed

HOW MUCH: $15-$23

FOR MORE INFO: (916) 353-1001 or sutterstreettheatre.org

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