I took my daughter to the opening night of Seussical: The Musical, an Alliance Childrenâs Theatre production held on the playhouse's mainstage. She and I had been to ACT productions before (Aladdin and Go, Dog, Go!), but always at matinee shows. The official opening night performance is at 7, which would keep her out past her bedtime, but we decided to go for it this year.
I was surprised to discover that it was a pretty big deal, with equivalent pomp to any Alliance Theatre opening night, and with probably as many people in the audience as Duke Ellington's Sophisticated Ladies had the previous month. I wonder if the Dr. Seuss name inspired a "bigger house" than usual for ACT shows. Folks like Freddie Ashley, artistic director of Actor's Express, were hobnobbing in the lobby like it was an opening night just for grown-ups, not families.
I don't know if this was a regular feature, but the evening included goodie bags for the kids, given out by friendly volunteers after the show. My daughterâs goodie bag contained the following: one sugar cookie, one piece of chewy orange candy, one pencil, three soft decorative stickers, and, incongruously, a selection of coupons from Honeybaked Ham.
The audience clearly enjoyed the exuberant, resplendent show. Set designer Kat Conley and costume designer Sydney Roberts really pulled out the stops, and it features a terrific cast, notably two scene-stealing Atlanta musical talents, Wendy Melkonian (Gertrude) and Jill Hames (Mayzie) showing just how good they are as a pair of very different birds.
A few things about Seussical kind of stuck in my craw. The songs, from Ragtime creators Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty, seemed built around blah, unmemorable melodies. When I remember âOh, The Thinks You Can Think,â which opens and closes the show, for some reason I hear the âWeekend Editionâ theme from NPR in my head. The use of contemporary musical styles, like R&B and Latino beats, made for fun, showy numbers but didnât feel faithful to the rolling cadences of Seussâ rhymes. By far my favorite song was essentially a familiar fragment of Seuss text, set to rollicking music, that the cast uses for their final bow. Why not a full-fledged number around that one? (I wonât give away its origins.)
To pick more nits, it annoyed me that the script fuses the plot of Horton Hears a Who with Horton Hatches the Egg. Horton appoints himself the caretaker of the dust-speck on which live the minuscule Whos, but allows himself to get sidetracked to sitting on Mayzie's egg for what turns out to be nearly a year. Horton comes across as irresponsible and frustratingly passive, especially considering that, as an elephant, he could put down the monkey shines of the bullying Wickersham brothers with extreme prejudice.
You can tell I saw Seussical the night before the Oscar show, because I had the weird thought that flighty Mayzie and put-upon baby sitter Horton were kind of like Amy Ryanâs Oscar-nominated unfit mother character and Casey Affleckâs stand-up private detective in Gone Baby Gone. Probably that was a coincidence. Probably.