The circus has come to the Victoria Theatre!
The absolutely delightful centerpiece of the Muse Machine’s breezy production of Stephen Flaherty and Lynn Ahrens’ “Seussical,” the arts education organization’s 30th annual student musical, is “The Circus McGurkus,” a fantastic Act 2 display of fun, mystery and whimsy. Developed by the Muse artistic team in collaboration with Fred Garbo of “Sesame Street” and “The Inflatable Theater Company,” the vibrant number departs its accustomed status as a merely serviceable transition to fluidly emerge as a clever and imaginative playground deserving of an encore. Inflatable objects, plate spinning, hula hoops, rings, juggling, acrobatics, somersaults, cartwheels, unicycles, and more are impressively handled by the highly entertaining cast from various schools across the Miami Valley.
Elsewhere, the material isn’t executed with sharp consistency, especially evident when the aforementioned centerpiece suddenly catapults the show’s momentum, but director Joe Deer still coaxes admirable performances from his principals. The naturally endearing William Peters is the personification of kindness, loyalty and perseverance as the genuinely genial Horton the Elephant, who vows to rescue the citizens of Whoville despite overwhelming ridicule from his peers. Mark Howard, a radiant tenor, doesn’t miss a beat as his engaging portrayal of JoJo reveals a confident stage presence far beyond his years. The gangly, playful Sean Cheatwood effortlessly adopts various animated personas as the kooky Cat in the Hat. Dynamic vocalist Jennifer Clemens brings wonderful R&B sass to her role as the Sour Kangaroo. Gwyn Burton, an adorable Gertrude McFuzz, and the bubbly Christine Fiala, an appropriately flashy and vain Mayzie LaBird, are equally appealing. David Emery and Sarah Martin are well-matched as Mayor of Whoville and Mrs. Mayor. The intimidating John Neff commands attention and incites fear as the best General Genghis Kahn Schmitz I have seen. The dastardly Wickersham Brothers, uniquely dressed as street toughs, are cohesively comprised of Kyle Bates, Joel Daniel (also the humorous Grinch), James Fields, Benjamin Green and Christian Johnson. Jeremy Cleary (Vlad Vladikoff), Rollie Fisk (Judge Yertle the Turtle), Cayla Destefani (Bird Girl), Cecily Dowd (Bird Girl), Anna Hlinomaz (Bird Girl), Rachael Horner (Bird Girl), Clare Kneblik (Bird Girl), Callia Tellez (Bird Girl) and Rachel Woeste (Bird Girl) are noteworthy.
Additionally, Lula Elzy’s seemingly non-stop choreography is cute and colorful, particularly the uplifting opening number “Oh, The Thinks You Can Think!” as well as “It’s Possible” and the energetic finale. Music director Timothy Olt leads a strong, steady orchestra. Set designer J. Branson’s large backdrops capture the spirit of the Dr. Seuss books. Many costumes sparkle with personality thanks to coordinators Lyn Baudendistel, Robin Brown, Patty Peters and Alisa Vukasinovich. John Rensel’s lighting design expertly accents varying moods and locales. David Sherman’s sound design specifically impacts during JoJo’s Act 2 military departure, but repeatedly missed cues hindered last night’s performance.
Bookended by a sprinkle of Hollywood star power and an inspired nod to a legendary rock band, “Seussical” awakens the child in all of us with an exuberant charm typifying the Muse pedigree. Step right up!
“Seussical” continues through Jan. 19 at the Victoria Theatre, 138 N. Main St., Dayton. You can still catch performancestonight at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. Act One: 55 minutes; Act Two: 40 minutes. Tickets are $25-$59. For tickets or more information, call Ticket Center Stage at (937) 228-3630 or visit www.ticketcenterstage.com.