Seussical at Southwark Playhouse
Does Dr Seuss transition well to the stage? The audience at Southwark Playhouse may find itself asking that question while watching Seussical, a musical mishmash including several of the author’s most popular characters. With excellent choreography, creative stage design and a strong cast, the production should be brilliant – and it certainly is an imaginative and uplifting feel-good musical for kids – but there’s something which just holds it back from being better than it is.
Perhaps it’s the blandness of the music. Each piece echoes a different style, which always keeps it fresh and entertaining, but it also displays a lack of true originality. None of the score is surprising or new; after a few numbers one knows exactly what to expect, which is a great pity considering the top-notch vocal quality.
Or perhaps it’s the rather vapid, superficial plot. It feels almost like a typical Dr Seuss storyline – Horton the elephant (Scott Paige) discovers the existence of the tiny planet Whoville in a plant and vows to protect its inhabitants from danger. The Cat in the Hat (Marc Pickering) narrates the entire story while assisting the youngest and smallest of the Whos, JoJo (Anna Barnes). But it never goes beyond a simple feel-good message of “everyone matters, even the smallest” and “trust in your imagination”. The casting choices are almost perfect: Paige manages to evoke some genuine emotion for the nature of his kind-to-a-fault character, and Pickering has an excellent comedic timing, which generates plenty of laughter. Even Barnes, who is marred by a dull and passive character, is able to get the best out of the script.
Of course, it’s primarily a musical for kids, and for them it’s absolutely fantastic. But one would still wish for the production to trust them and realise that they can put up with more than two-dimensional morals. Yes, children will enjoy every minute of Seussical, because the aspects that work are well-executed. The problem is that the show screams potential, but never quite leaps off the stage and into our hearts.
Consequently, this theatrical adaptation of Dr Seuss’s vision fails to convince completely, but it retains its status as light-weight entertainment. For families with children it’s a smash-hit; for everyone else, it’s a rather mediocre, but nevertheless engaging musical with plenty of nostalgia for Seuss-fanatics.
Photos: Adam Trigg
Seussical is at the Southwark Playhouse from 22nd November until 29th December 2018. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.