WESTON — The Weston Playhouse Young Company production of “Seussical” proved an effervescent fantasy that enchanted a horde of youngsters — and drew in the adults with its depth of characters and wit — at its opening performance Friday on a lawn outside Walker Farm at Weston Playhouse.
Vermont’s oldest professional is celebrating its 85th year with a statewide tour “Seussical”; ten performances remain; admission is free but tickets are required (due to limited space).
“Seussical,” with music is by Stephen Flaherty, lyrics by Lynn Ahrens; book by Ahrens and Flaherty; co-conceived by Ahrens, Flaherty and Eric Idl, hit Broadway but was not a big success. That version was nearly two hours long, and impossibly complex.
The Weston version is a completely different story. Director Allison Benko, adapted the Theater for Young Audiences version with some interesting and poignant casting changes — the Cat in the Hat and Mayor of Whoville become female, Mayzie becomes a drag queen, etc. — all entirely in the words of Dr. Seuss, and the result is a delightful hour of storytelling.
All this is combined in a brilliant song-and-dance show that just doesn’t stop. With amazingly complex but inviting choreography by Felicity Stiverson made more vivid with imaginative and fun costumes by Lily Prentice, it’s nearly impossible to look away from the stage.
Still, the characterizations are most the most interesting — and fun. “Seussical” is basically an amalgam of Dr. Seuss favorites: “Horton Hears a Who!” “Horton Hatches the Egg” and the story of “Gertrude McFuzz.” It centers on Horton the Elephant’s quest to save the people of Whoville who live on a speck of dust.
At Friday’s opening, Nadia Balaouchi was a wily and witty Cat in the Hat, introducing Sage Jepson’s warm and endearing Horton — with his sprayer trunk. In Whoville, Horton discovers the adventurous by Jojo, a charming but unhappy Cole Thompson, and exasperated parents, the Mayor and her husband, Gracee Street and Timmy Thompson.
When Whoville gets lost in a field of Clover, Horton’s friends make fun of him, including the Sour Kangaroo (Daelyn Jorif, an outstanding singer). Mayzie (a hearty Alexander Tan, a fine singer too) convinces Horton to sit on her egg so she can take a break — but takes off to Florida.
Horton is captured and sold to a circus, and only the shy self-deprecating Gertrude, a charming Emma Diner, comes to help him. And so on.
Stephen Flaherty’s music music is in a typical young effervescent musical theater style. All of the Young Company proved able singers and, with expert musical direction — and keyboard playing — by John Coyne, kept the show focused.
At Saturday’s performance, some moments were difficult to hear over passing trucks or motorcycles. However, with simple yet attractive scenery by Dan Daly, and the music and dance, the visuals were beautiful.
Weston’s “Seussical” was simply irresistible.