Review: Seussical, The Musical

Wyndham Cultural Centre
Dynamic Performers Australia
Until 8 October

Stephen Flaherty and Lynn Ahrens’ musical spectacular based on the classic stories of Dr. Seuss is a show that holds a special place in the hearts of the Beckitt-Desmond clan who run the company as many of their children have performed as leads in other adaptations of the show from the Cat In The Hat to Horton The Elephant to JoJo and Mr. Mayor, so it was no surprise that the family run organisation decided to bring it to life themselves in their latest theatrical season. Over Dynamic Performers eight year history, they have prided themselves as being one of the most inclusive and welcoming companies in Melbourne’s amateur theatre circuit and their productions keep getting better and better each year, but this time around they undertook their biggest challenge yet with a passion project that those who are familiar with the company say was a long time coming and years in the making. Filling their highly representative show with childlike wonder, classic characters galore and the purest form of magic, the company really outdid themselves for their fifth full scale musical outing with the spirit of theatre being well and truly alive in a Seuss adaptation done right for all time. 

In a dual directorial feat, Helenmarie Desmond and Kate Smith built Who and the Jungle Of Nool from the ground up with a creative vision that paid respect to the original illustrations of Dr. Seuss’ stories with all its imaginative originality on full display and even involved a rainbow colour scheme that paid a special tribute to the LGBT community. Under Desmond and Smith’s wacky and wondrous guidance, all actors onstage made the beloved characters their very own and the pair ensured that each performer got a chance to shine in the spotlight no matter what age, gender, race, sexuality, talent, etcetera in a beautifully representative display. Joseph and Cassandra Beckitt’s collaborative efforts as the production’s musical directors promised perfection like they always do as the virtuosic former Beckitt practically created all the spectacle’s backing tracks from scratch with instrumentations that served the beloved plotline like it came from the finest restaurants while the graceful latter Beckitt managed to find all the strengths of each vocalist and coached them into showcasing talents that many had never realised before. Together, the Beckitts’ work behind the baton was filled with heart and harmony, providing us in the audience with a musical masterpiece that combined classical training with contemporary stylings which any theatrical chorus or choir could envy for a sweet symphony for the senses. As Seussical’s choreographer, Carolyn Hasenkam’s main objective for her dancers was to have fun and be as silly and goofy with it as possible while still keeping up with the respective routines that even the crowd could follow along with. Each dance number was quirkier than the one thay came before it and it added so much more to both of the universes we witnessed coming alive throughout the production’s run time and all throughout, it stayed entertaining and energetic and that’s something that the choreography for any adaptation of the Seussical should constantly thrive on. 

There will never be any instructions on how to raise a child but the cast of DPA’s Seussical knew exactly how to feel like one all over again when it came to influencing each of their onstage performances. Beginning with the ensemble and featured roles, I wish to shine a light on the characterisations all of them carefully crafted when portraying beloved characters from Who, the Jungle Of Nool and the Circus McGurkus whether they played whos, animals, humans, things, grinches, Vlad Vladikoffs, turtle judges, hunches or even pit singers. My hat also goes off to the Bird Girls and Wickersham Brothers who defined grace and swagger respectively with their portrayals and vocalisations and despite the fact that the amount of people portraying them doubled compared to most adaptations of the show, they all had a hand in making every scene they were present in feel fuller. This can be said for everyone who made up this entire group as they had the ability to make magic happen through the eyes of a child and constructed a world of pure imagination in a feast for the eyes that blew our minds more than any illusionist ever could. 

Coming on to the leads, we begin with a role described as the smallest of small but couldn’t be any more giant if you tried, Jojo, the greatest thinker of all who was portrayed by Amy Saker in her first ever lead role. In her impeccable and immersive performance, Saker let her greatest of thoughts run free just like her counterpart does and did everything in her power to make a character considered surreal in their own world and literature as a whole all the more relatable and it worked in her favour as it spread a message of respect and acceptance that children today hold dear now more than ever. Laura Williams’ sweet and sublime portrayal of Gertrude McFuzz saw her literally spread her wings and fly like an albatross majestically across the sky with a lovely message of self-worth that she was able to get across with more than just a tweet, and her devotion to Horton paid tribute to the fact that she is the true hero of the story. Andrea Yzobel convincingly captured Mayzie La Bird’s egotistic nature by unleashing her inner diva and oozing confidence all out into the auditorium in a performance that was favourable and flaunting and it shined a light on her ever growing poise. If any performance could prove what the meaning of soul was, it was Shayne Lowe’s version of the Sour Kangaroo as she was clearly capable of rocking the mic and melting our faces with killer pipes similar to songstresses like Sarah Connor and along with her onstage offspring Dash Wallis, presented us with a driven and divalicious performance that could raise the roof. In her original and orderly take on General Genghis Khan Schmitz, Lucy Osborne was comedy gold ordering Jojo and his military students around in the first female casting I’ve seen for the role and at such a young age, executed comic timing like a professional who has been in the game for years, opening the door for many female takes on the butter side upper for years to come. 

Two performances I was thoroughly impressed by were those given by
company standouts Braden Spink and Charmaine Murphy in their quirky and quintessential performances of Mr and Mrs. Mayor. The onstage couple’s cheerfulness was contagiously spread out across the stands and you couldn’t help but smile and feel nothing but pure joy everytime they appeared with their bubbly rendition of Here On Who being one of the production’s greatest moments. Enthusiasm was Spink and Murphy’s middle name all throughout the night and by fitting into their respective roles like a tailor made gown, the rest of Melbourne’s amateur circuit should soon take notice of their remarkable talents just like DPA has done for several years. Finally, we come to the Seussical’s king and queen and to me, it was arguably a no brainer as we were greeted with a hero who in real life has constantly invited people to listen to a voice that can have you swooning with great acceptance and acclaim and a host who has spent the longest time being a role model for others in the company and getting her long awaited chance in the largest of spotlights. It is my great privilege to place these crowns upon the heads of Oliver Mordaunt for his role as Horton The Elephant and Evynn D’Rosario for her role as the Cat In The Hat. On an adventure to save the planet of Who that paves the way for his new journey into fatherhood, Mordaunt was faithful one hundred percent just like his elephant counterpart in a performance filled with adoration and amazement with vocals like a soothing lullaby and delivery of dialogue reminiscent of a parent reading their kids a story as they lie in bed all tucked in. No one left the show that night without their heart feeling warm and fuzzy as Mordaunt’s devotion to his fellow castnates and his beloved audience could not be mistaken and it’s a testament to the power he holds over the theatre going public, especially in what may be his best role to date. Reminding me of musical children’s entertainers like Charli Robinson, Justine Clarke and Emma Watkins, D’Rosario was nothing short of hypnotising when she entertained kids and adults alike without them looking away even once from her bright, bold and breathtaking characterisation and in her first ever major lead role was able to single-handedly light up the starry night sky to illuminate the Dr. Seuss universe. D’Rosario took the audience along for the ride as she guided Jojo on the most wonderful of expeditions better than Dora The Explorer ever could, resulting in her becoming the evening’s most exciting and pleasant host, revving up other companies to come knocking on her door in the near future, revealing MC talents that she had never realised before and above all, rewarding her with the onstage glory she has always deserved. 

In conclusion, the Dynamic Performers reminded us all that passion projects are worth every second of a creative’s time and how the end result is guaranteed to blow everyone away when portrayed as strongly as the company’s take on Seussical was. With performances that were just as imaginative as Dr. Seuss himself, prod team work and set design that inserted us right into the narrative of our favourite children’s books and all original costume design that has a right to garner award recognition when the season comes to a close, there was something tailored for absolutely everyone and I can only anticipate what great representation milestone the company achieve in the new performance year after enforcing Horton’s most cherished belief that a person’s a person no matter how small. Special shoutout to Helenmarie, Kate, Joseph, Cassandra, Carolyn, Michael, Evynn, Oliver, Laura Williams, Braden, Charlotte, Dash, Julia, Madeline, Bridgette, Monica, Leanne, Shona, Bennett, Hugh, Alison, James and Laura Wilson for their work on the production and to the rest of the cast and crew associated with Seussical for another strong, standout season that deserves every bit of recognition it can from Melbourne’s amateur theatre circuit. Congratulations Dynamic Performers on an incredible run, remember to tell yourselves how lucky you are and that anything’s possible.

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Lucas Ioppolo

Lucas Ioppolo

Lucas Ioppolo is a community theatre performer with a passion to bring a positive energy and encouragement to those in theatre who have gone unnoticed or underrepresented. They hope their reviews can help bring the spotlight back to a community that has helped them throughout the years.
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