(SoSoGay)

Kids and Parents alike will be entertained, without fail. We love Dr Seuss here at So So Gay towers. Nearly 60 years after he wrote the stories about Horton and co, his messages and poetry is still heard daily around the world – more often than not on the white board at our local tube station. Sell A Door bring their successful 2012 production back, with a few added extra bits, to the Arts Theatre to make Christmas that bit more colourful this season. The story of the musical crams together some of Dr Seuss’ most beloved characters, from Horton the Elephant (Ste Clough) to Gertrude McFuzz (Kirsty Marie Ayers), and of course The Cat in the Hat (Elliot Fitzpatrick). It’s a fast moving show and this production does it justice, being snappy and slick throughout – perfect for a young audience with possibly a short attention span. The set is also bright and colourful, but without being patronising. Yes, this is a ‘theatre for young audiences version’, but it doesn’t treat its intended with the slightest whiff of dumbing down. The colourful cast of ‘Seussical’ are lighting up the Arts Theatre in style this Christmas. The real strong element of this production are the female leads, or the ‘birds’, should we say – in the least sexist of ways. Jessica Parker as the feisty Mayzie La Bird is showbiz and sassy throughout, bringing a lot of humour to the role and with some strong vocals. Kirsty Marie Ayers makes for a cute and engaging Gertrude, keeping the audience on her side at all times, while the trio of bird girls made up of Tanya Shields, Jennifer Low and Amy Punter are excellent, showing off a delicious blend of tight harmonies. The highlight of the production is the choreography by Racky Plews. It’s witty, dynamic and well executed by the cast, in particular by Dance Captain Alistair Crosswell who plays one of the Wickersham Brothers. There is also some gorgeous imagery to feast your eyes upon during the show, from a shimmering sea, to a bathtub boat and a very creative use of feathered fans to make the tails of the bird characters. Credit must also go to the stage management team who have to deal with getting Seussical up and running on time, to allow Dickens Abridged to pop up in the theatre that same evening, giving them a very tight turnaround. No mean feat. Also, the orchestrated tracks were perfect for setting the scene and playing up the style, although the levels could have been just that little bit punchier. Sadly, because of the music, there isn’t any opportunity to interact with the young audience who were crying out for some participation. The cast almost went there at one point, but the restriction didn’t quite allow them to make anything more of it – the story had to keep moving, which is a shame. The only gripe we have with this production is that there are a few difficulties connecting with the language, as of course in true Dr Seuss style most of the words are made up, and there isn’t enough of an attempt to make it obvious what the characters are referring to. Also we slightly missed the love story between Horton and Gertrude this year; it very much played second fiddle to the big production numbers and jazzy choreography. But the focus on the storytelling was very clear and nicely played by all. It’s a very heartwarming story and truly perfect for a family Christmas treat, especially if pantomime isn’t your thing. With a short running time and a real visual feast for the eyes, kids and parents alike will be entertained, without fail.