The Placer Performance Calendar


Great Local Shows - Theatrical Reviews

Title Seussical Jr.
Organization Sutter Street Theatre
Date(s) of show July 26 - August 10, 2014
Reviewer Gerry Camp

Probably almost everyone who has kids, knows kids, or was a kid knows the stories of Dr. Seuss (Theodor Geisel). As a stage musical by Stephen Flaherty and Lynn Ahrens, “Seussical” played Broadway in 2000. The “Jr.” version, for kids 18 and younger, has just opened at Sutter Street Theatre. If you remember “The Cat in the Hat,” and of course the stories of the heroic Horton the Elephant “Horton Hears a Who” and “Horton Hatches the Egg,” they’re all here along with much more by the good doctor, set to song and dance by 33 young people who somehow all fit, even while dancing up a storm, on the Sutter Street’s small stage.

The story behind this production is almost a fairy tale itself. The performers, who range in age from about 6 to 18, all participated in Sutter Street’s Musical Theatre Master Workshop. Three weeks before the show opened the students learned one song from the show. The next day they auditioned, and the day following those cast began rehearsals, which ran for a mere 2 ˝ weeks before opening. In that short time resident costumer Eileen Beaver and several assistants created fantastic costumes for the cast, Mike Jimena created a beautiful set, and director/choreographer Connie Mockenhaupt shaped her young cast, some of whom had never before been on stage, into an ensemble who perform the more than 25 musical numbers with precision, musicality, and obvious pleasure.

So can a show put together in a mere 2˝ weeks be worth seeing? The answer from this lifelong theatre fan is an overwhelming YES. I found the show itself delightful, but the greatest pleasure for me was watching 33 young people have so much fun and take so much pride in being part of such a wonderful entertainment.

It’s difficult to single out individual performances in what is above all an ensemble cast. Everyone on stage contributed to the pleasure of the experience. I want to mention, however, Daryn Link, whose joyful personality and lovely voice shine through as The Cat in the Hat, who acts as sort of master-of-ceremonies, holding the many subplots together. Other outstanding voices are those of Gabrielle Collens as the hapless Gertrude McFuzz, whose single feather tail grows to almost unmanageable length, and Natalie Sulziner as Mayzie, the irresponsible bird who leaves Horton the Elephant to sit on her egg while she goes off on a permanent vacation in Palm Beach. And I can’t fail to mention the moving performance of Luke Villanueva as the heroic Horton, who not only saves the entire planet of Who, which he discovers on a grain of dust, but then saves Mayzie’s egg, which hatches into . . . well, see the show to find out.

Among the younger cast I was especially charmed by Brendan Jobe and Zoe Comstock as Mr. and Mrs. Mayor of Whoville, and Natalie Collins as Jojo, one of the tiny Whos, whose amazing shout finally allows the animals in Horton’s world to learn that the Whos really do exist on their speck of dust. And as Horton reminds us, “A person’s a person, no matter how small.”

So if you would enjoy seeing joyful, enchanting, enthusiastic young people brilliantly directed by the expert Connie Mockenhaupt, you should get tickets for “Seussical Jr.: at Sutter Street Theatre. It’s a great show for the whole family. But get tickets soon, because this is one show that will surely sell out all performances very quickly.

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