BY SANDY STAGGS
When the first name you recognize on the playbill of South Carolina Children’s Theatre’s “Seussical: The Musical” is Kim Granner as Director, and Scenic Designer, and on costumes and props, you know this is going to be a terrific show.
I was not disappointed. Ms. Granner, as one of the finest scenic artists in the Upstate, has emboldened an immaculate vision of Dr. Seuss’ sensory palette from the popup storybook sets to the kaleidoscopic colors of the costumes and two-tone wigs to her eye-popping puppets
And having on board Greenville’s premier choreographer Kimberlee Ferreira as well as Music Director Steve Griner from the company’s fall staging of “Beauty and the Beast,” makes this musical a sumptuous feast for all ages.
Written by Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty, “Seussical” combines many characters from the Seuss canon (“If I Ran the Circus” “One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish,” “How the Grinch Stole Christmas,” “The Lorax” and “Green Eggs and Ham” among them), but the crux of the plot is from “Horton Hears a Who!”, “Horton Hatches the Egg” and “Miss Gertrude McFuzz.”
The story opens with young Jojo (an animated kid with perfect pitch, Ayden Woo) and The Cat in the Hat, played by the remarkably nimble Mitchell Smith who was a most luminous Lumiere in “Beauty and the Beast” and proves himself quite the showman as Master of Ceremonies (sort of a tamer version of Joel Grey in “Cabaret”) throughout the complicated plot, but particularly in the opener “Oh, The Thinks You Can Think.”
Talented tenor Neel Patrick Edwards (Cogsworth in “Beauty and the Beast”) is noble and sympathetic as Horton the elephant, who discovers the microscopic planet Who on a speck of dust and places it on a clover for safekeeping. He is teased mercilessly by every other Seuss character except Gertrude (Carly Frates), who becomes enchanted by him. And along the way, Horton has one adventure after another, including being kidnapped by a circus and tricked into sitting on an egg by a fly-by-night party bird girl.
Delvin Choice, the Greenville star who leaped to national spotlight on season 6 of “The Voice” is on a break from touring and makes his cherished presence known many times as he reprises his featured role from the 2008 SCCT production as leader of the Wickersham trio of monkey brother. Choice shines brightly and is wide-open on numbers like “Chasing the Whos” and “Egg, Nest and Tree” and often soars above his co-stars, even in the company performances.
But his younger brothers keep up with him and are played by a pair of experienced you lads with loads of credentials: Myles Moore (back from his lead in the national tour of “A Christmas Story” and feature film debut) and Coal Halverson, who comes from a theatre family.
And Ella Fitzgerald meets Ethel Merman in the form of saucy, dynamic Cindy Mixon as the Sour Kangaroo, who belts some mean blues in “Biggest Blame Fool” and voices her own roo puppet.
All of the vocal work is exceptional, but I have to say, the Birds are just pristine. As Gertrude Ms. Frates is just dreamy as the bird who longs for a bigger tail feather. She has firm command of the material, the voice of a sparrow, and a penchant for those musical comic soprano parts. She sparkles with the Afro-Caribbean beat of “The One Feather Tail of Miss Gertrude McFuzz” and the quirky “Amazing Gertrude,” but the highlight of the show is her heartwarming duet with Edwards, as she pines for Horton in “Notice Me Horton.”
Kasie Granner lends copious amounts of flair to her bird part Mayzie (a bad mother who eschews sitting on her egg) in a bluesy rag “How Lucky You Are.” This song is normally a bit naughty, but it has been tamed for the young audiences.
And her coterie of bird pals (Lauren Veselak, Meris Privette and Katie Jankowski) adds the sweetest element of harmony to the show. And a special shout out to Nathan Beers and Laura Sykes as the terrific Mr. and Mrs. Mayor of Who.
Cindi Kerns is scenic painter on this production which is lit by Mary Parker’s continuous movement of melding colors. The Stage Manager for “Seussical” is Mia Phillips, with Cindi Kerns and Patti Wilusz assisting. Erin Woo is production assistant.
“Seussical the Musical” continues one more weekend at the Peace Center’s Gunter Theatre. Showtimes are Friday, May 5 at 7 pm; Saturday, May 6 at 1:30 pm & 5:30 pm and Sunday, May 7 at 1:30 pm. Call the Peace Center Box Office at (864) 467-3000 or visit www.peacecenter.org.