Children's Books

Oh, the thinks you can think!

Please note: This production uses strobes

Mortimer Williams as Horton with Sarah Richard, Carly Graeme and Chantal Stanfield

HORTON (Mortimer Williams), the elephant with gentle hands and soulful understanding of others’ plights, supported by Sarah Richard, Carly Graeme and Chantal Stanfield. Photograph by Mariola Biela.

YOU AND YOUR child will be completely captivated by the infectious rhythms, madcap narrative and satisfying choreography in the current extremely slickly performed and directed production of Seussical, at the Lyric theatre, and it may be just the ticket for you – and them – to round off a well-spent school vacation. As aficionados of the work will remember, it’s a rollicking pastiche of some ideas by Dr Seuss that plays into the crazy possibilities of an elephant who has heart enough for a whole world of people so tiny no one can see them, amongst other universal themes.

It’s a work that brings the buzz and speed of Broadway musicals to interface with repartee that will zip over your child’s head from the moment it is uttered, dealing with issues such as fickle birds with more of an eye for the lights of Vegas than a yen to settle down; others with issues about their physical appearance, and the real horror of being sold to traders. Your child will be blown away by the way in which the narrative and the characters are structured to fit together in a way that would make logic shake its proverbial head.

Similarly, the colour and values presented in the costumes and set of the work fantastically bring together nonsensical ideas with the sense of unbridled possibilities. It’s a context in which banal things such as washing on a washing line have the texture and spiritual wherewithal to be vessels of magic in different ways.

Like the other family theatre pickings on stage in Gauteng toward the end of 2019, including The Cat in the Hat, Peter Pan on Ice, Jack and the Beanstalk and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, the work explodes with frothy and fantastic characters, from Horton the Elephant (Mortimer Williams) to the feisty Gertrude MacFuzz (Chantal Stanfield) – with her feather tail issues; not to forget the fabulous Sour Kangaroo (Lois du Plessis), and the spunky, irresponsible Maisie (Carly Graeme) and of course Jojo (Abby Molz), the central child who is a delightful and extremely articulate device to the whims of the tale itself.

Alas, the production is not flawless, but this has less to do with the performances – which bring together some of the country’s best vocal talent – than the production itself. Du Plessis has a big beautiful voice. Bigger and arguably more beautiful than several of her colleagues on stage here. The face mics that the cast wear, however, seemingly have been modified uniformly (or were, on opening night). What you get, then, is a Sour Kangaroo with decibel strength that may cause you physical harm.

When you look at Horton, if you are a long time supporter of children’s theatre in this country, you may be moved to sob an ugly cry. Not because of Mortimer Williams’s very competent portrayal of this delicate and sensitive elephant who is big enough to stand for people smaller than he, but rather, for the memory of Francois Theron, who so wonderfully took ownership of this role during his career.

It’s a show of improvised wisdom, hard boiled theatricality and loud resonance. Your 18-month-old may be more interested in the event of coming to the theatre and looking at the carpets or other people in their seats, than the intricacies of the tale. Your less-than-eighteen-month-old may be traumatised by the whole thing. Leave them at home, to grow bigger before you bring them. For anyone of four or more, however, it’s a must see!

  • Seussical is directed by Matthew Counihan. Based on the writings of Dr Seuss, conceived by Stephen Flaherty and Eric Idle, it features design by Sebe Leotlela (choreography), Sarah Roberts (costumes and set coordination), Denis Hutchinson (lighting), Rowan Bakker (music supervision), Mark Malherbe (sound design) and Lynn Aherns (lyrics). It is performed by Danelle Cronje, Lois du Plessis, Carly Graeme, Yamikani Mahaka-Phiri, Danny Meaker, Abby Molz, Sarah Richard, Musanete Sakupwana, Chantal Stanfield and Mortimer Williams at The Lyric Theatre, Gold Reef City in Ormonde, until 12 January 2020.
  • The production is stage-managed by Erin Hrustinsky and is dedicated to the memory of Francois Theron.

 

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