Seussical the Musical

by Veronica Velasquez
Tri-City Voice – January 17, 2005

Oh, the amazing things you’ll see! Oh, the magnificent singing you’ll hear! It’s Seussical the Musical based on the works of Dr. Seuss, and adapted from the book of the same name by Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty. This isn’t child’s play…well, technically, it is, but it’s so much more than that. It’s clever, and amazing, and hilarious, and beautiful, and….oh, don’t miss it!

The production, by Star Struck Musical Theater, which opened Friday, will run through next weekend, Jan. 21 – 23 at the Smith Center at Ohlone College. Directed by Lori Stokes, the play features works from more than 14 of Dr. Seuss’ beloved books, such as “Green Eggs and Ham”, “Horton Hears a Who”, “The Bitter Butter Battle”, “Cat in the Hat” and “Horton Hatches the Egg”.

Horton the Elephant is walking through the Jungle of Nool one day, when he hears a small voice in the clover, saying “Help me!” As he listens carefully, he discovers that there is a small world, the “smallest universe in the sky” existing upon the head of the clover! He hastens to come to the rescue of the small creatures, who call themselves “Whos”, and throws himself into protecting them.

What follows is not only the story of Horton’s odyssey, but more of a glimpse of the microcosm that is Seussland, with characters from both “The Bitter Butter Battle”, “The Cat in the Hat” and “Green Eggs and Ham” frolicking in and out, with their own parts to play in the story.

‘It was really clever, and fun to watch,” said Dianna Shore of Newark. “They did a nice job of bringing all the stories together. It was a very creative blending that translated Dr. Seuss’ timeless messages well.”

Some of the cheering section members were from out of town. The Shackletons, friends of the Stokeses, came all the way from Belmont to watch the play, and couldn’t have been more thrilled.

“It was awesome!” exclaimed Woody Shackleton. “Really out of this world. “The Cat in the Hat” is the best book of them all. I loved the staging, the singing, and the casting; it was all lots of fun.”

“We loved it,” agreed wife Denise. “It’s adorable.”

“We were laughing, singing, and cheering along. This also appeals to adults,” Woody added soberly.

A group of students from San Leandro High also made the journey to Fremont to cheer their friends on.

” I feel like I’m in the story,” said Lorena Ojakian, of San Leandro, during the play’s intermission.. “And they had great costumes, I mean, really cute.”

“It’s outstanding.” agreed mom Liz Ojakian with a smile.

“I can see ‘Green Eggs and Ham’ in my mind as I watch this,” Danielle Masarweh said enthusiastically. “It’s so awesome.”

“This is the best of four productions I’ve seen,” added Daniel Woofter. “I think the biggest contribution to this particular one was the diversity in the ages and cultures of the cast members. It gives a sense of different kinds of voices, and there is so much youth and energy in the show.”

“It’s also really cool how the characters bring the audience in to participate,” said Lorena Ojakian, referring to how Godfrey involved the audience, referring to “you in the first row”, and cavorting about during intermission with an audience member in a spontaneous jig.

Godfrey was truly the life of the party, as she played the Cat in the Hat to the hilt. She raised the bar on sauciness, zaniness, and Seussness, as she dashed about, shaking her can here, laughing maniacally there, and belting out magnificent, ringing show tunes betwixt and between. The lady is a formidable talent, with skills all across the board in singing, dancing, and acting.

In addition to her starring role, Godfrey also played a cabana boy, who sang a hilarious rendition of “How lucky you arrrrrrrrrrre”, and the loony Dr. Drake, the instantly lovable plastic surgeon in glasses and handlebar moustache. Drake aids Gertrude in her tail addendum, while muttering incoherent, nonsensical German phrases, such as “Farfernugen!” “Dumkoff!” and “Wiener schnitzel!”

Not enough can be said for the spunky Godfrey, who can do it all. In yet another deliciously funny role as an auctioneer, she pounds her oversized, inflatable mallet and sells off the “bird, nest, and tree” to “the man with the long sideburns and greasy black moustache…oh, sorry ma’am!’

Stacey Lynn Bell, who plays “Gertrude McFuzz”, Horton’s enamored next-door neighbor, shines as the shy-yet-determined little bird who will do anything for her friend. In a case of still waters that run deep, Gertrude goes literally to the ends of the earth to help Horton in his quest to save both Whoville and the egg. In “Notice Me, Horton”, Bell warbles out the deepest secret of her adolescent soul, reaching out a trembling hand to Horton, who cannot hear her, and sadly retreats. We feel her pain.

Another instantly memorable cast member is Courtney Stokes, who plays the feather-brained Mayzie La Bird. A beautifully-plumed bird of paradise, Stokes sings her powerful, earth shattering theme song “Amazing Mayzie” as she shakes her moneymaker for the boys. Like Mae West being strangled by 100 of her own boas, Mayzie knows her strengths (which include her incredible voice and lovely legs) as well as her weaknesses (namely, her faithfulness and parenting skills), and makes no pretenses about either.

Stokes plays Mayzie to the hilt, with her seductive voice and diva demeanor. She flounces about, having her fun with the boys, not a care in the world, until she winds up, alone, with an egg to sit on. “Who knew it could be so much work?” she pouts. Stokes does not just play any prima donna, she is their queen.

“I really liked the Whos,” said Jesse Carrozzo, age 10, of San Jose. “They were totally different, and really exciting to watch! Of course, that’s because my cousin (Alexa Daniels) is in there. I liked the way they fell when the clover was dropped, and their broken arms and crutches.”

“This is my second play,” said the miniature thespian. “I also saw “The Jungle Book” and “Go, Dog, Go.”

Vega, as Horton, is the classic anti-hero. “I’m slow, and fat,” he says, wringing his hands worriedly at the prospect of becoming a father, not realizing that he has already made the biggest sacrifice a father could make for his child. He is faithful, he is heroic, he is loving; the audience can see that, but Horton to himself is just a normal guy with promises to keep. Vega’s steadfast, honest performance brings many smiles, and more than a few tears.

“He doesn’t fly, but he takes care of eggs and listens to clovers,” the auctioneer expounds of Horton’s selling points.

And then there is the part of Jojo, played by Daniel Schonhaut. Not so tiny is the impression this young man leaves, with his gigantic voice and earnest demeanor, as the tiniest Who of all, who bravely enlists in the army to save Whoville. When Schonhaut is lost in the woods, terrified and alone, we don’t just feel pity, we feel genuine fear for this small child.

There are so many good parts, but one of the most delightful aspects of the play is the Wickersham Brothers, a band of Nool citizens who persecute Horton and his clover, because the whole concept of different beings is frightening to the jungle society. In Stokes’ version, the monkeys sport Mohawks, leather and chains, and green hair, transforming the Brothers into “punk monkeys”.

Swinging from vines and surrounding Horton, the monkeys menace him and steal his clover. As they belt out “Monkey Around” and “Chasing the Whos” with soulful grace, it’s a bit reminiscent of “West Side Story”, with the young toughs proving that these bullies can really, really sing and dance.

“We have some very talented kids here in Fremont,” Stokes said affectionately of her cast and crew. “It’s a hard show to get together. I’m really proud of the kids.”