Issue:  Vol. 47 / No. 50 / 14 December 2017
 

Dr. Feelgood

Out There


Daniel Barrington Rubio as Horton and Kennedy Williams as Jojo in Bay Area Musicals' production of "Seussical The Musical." Photo: Bay Area Musicals
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ADVERTISMENT

The wildly imaginative works of Dr. Seuss (pen name for Theodor Seuss Geisel ) have entered our language, become part of our cultural patrimony. Many of us grew up on his delightfully illustrated books, populated with bizarre characters and otherworldly flora and fauna. Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan cited his seminal "One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish" in a 2015 court case. The odious US Senator Ted Cruz famously read aloud from "Green Eggs and Ham" in a filibuster on the Senate floor – though given his zeal for depriving the poor and the elderly of health care, a more appropriate work for him to deliver would have been "How the Grinch Stole Christmas."

Now the fledgling theatrical troupe Bay Area Musicals closes out its second season in San Francisco with its production of the Broadway hit musical "Seussical The Musical" at the Alcazar Theatre. The show's flamboyant master of ceremonies, The Cat in the Hat, tells the story of Horton , an elephant with sensitivities who discovers a tiny speck of dust containing a whole community of Whos , including the littlest Who, Jojo , a child who stands accused of thinking too many "thinks."

Seuss creates a moral universe with important lessons for contemporary Americans. Horton protects the endangered Whos on their dust-speck, while at the same time nurturing an egg abandoned by the feckless Mayzie LaBird, both simply because he gave his word: "I said what I meant, and I'll do what I said." Jojo learns the value of independent thinking, even in the face of being ostracized, and rejects the military-industrial complex as the bloody scam that it is ("The Butter Battle"). Miss Gertrude McFuzz abandons the empty promises of cosmetic enhancement ("The One Feather Tail of Miss Gertrude McFuzz") yet still obtains her desired love object (Horton).

Tony Award winners Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty ("Ragtime") offer up a lively score that covers all the Seussian bases. Several children attended opening night, and they seemed captivated by the piece. Director Rachel Robinson keeps the stage picture full of energy and life. Her actors do not condescend to the material, giving totally committed performances. Kudos all around to the whole ensemble, but especially to the star turns of Daniel Barrington Rubio as Horton, Andrea Dennison-Laufer as Gertrude McFuzz, Vinh Nguyen as The Cat in the Hat, and Kennedy Williams as Jojo.

Out There exited the theatre with a renewed appreciation for the wit and wisdom of Dr. Seuss. "A person's a person, no matter how small." "Think your thinks!" "The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you'll go. " The Seussian canon seems large enough for a sequel: untouched here, for example, are both the impassioned environmentalist The Lorax ("I speak for the trees!") and homely Myrtle the Turtle , who could well be played by US Senator Mitch McConnell. You'd have to be a Sour Kangaroo to resist an invitation to this imaginative world.

 

"Seussical" runs through Aug. 5 at the Alcazar Theatre, 650 Geary St., SF. Tickets ($35-$65): (415) 340-2207 or bamsf.org.

 






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