Entering the Fremont Centre Theatre for YST’s latest production of Seussical Jr. is to enter a magical world, bursting with color and teeming with fanciful creatures singing Seussian rhymes that tells the tale of Horton and his quest. The show opened on Dr. Seuss’ birthday and with YST’s Seuss themed gala, it was indeed a weekend of celebration!
This whimsical story of a sweet pachyderm’s adventures as he goes about saving the little Whos and all of Whoville living on a speck of dust is a classic underdog story that feels particularly timely and heartfelt. The score is beautiful, the laughs plentiful and the young cast is simply delightful.
The enthusiasm is palpable and grabs you from the first energetic “Oh The Thinks You Can Think” and doesn’t let go until the rousing finale “Green Eggs and Ham”. So many of your favorite stories and characters are here beginning with the infamous Cat in The Hat, played to great comic effect by Sorsha Khitikian and with a knowing wink by Jack Wisinski in the “Earth” Cast. (There are two complete casts alternating performances, the other being the “Sky” cast). The Cat acts as a bit of a narrator and pops into the scenes as well with a particularly funny moment as a jazz pianist. We meet the littlest Who, JoJo, who has a big imagination and big dreams, played with wide-eyed optimism by Harrison Tang and with earnest innocence by a charming Paul Zenas.
Horton gets bamboozled into egg-sitting by the self serving and flamboyant bird, Mayzie, played with all the sass in town and powerhouse vocals of Ava Broneer and the saucy, big, Broadway belt of Aine Lee. Mayzie’s songs are a lot of fun as she is joined by her little bevy of bird girls. The loyal neighbor bird to Horton is sweetly played by the charismatic Lucy Fossa and the effervescent Karen McGovern.
The heart of the show of course is the kind-hearted and hopeful Horton played by a purely angelic voiced Brayden Nguyen and with vulnerable optimism by a darling George Dalton. Both are earnest as they set about proving to the world that “a person’s a person, no matter how small”. The staging of their duet with JoJo, “Alone in the Universe”, is incredibly touching while JoJo’s song “It’s Possible” is pure joy, sung beautifully by both Zenas and Tang.
Grace Dennis is full of verve while Anastasia Papadopolous is bright and bold as the brassy Sour Kangaroo and the absolutely adorable Kyla DeVilla and Victoria Field are irresistible as Young Kangaroo. Bringing the mischief are Levi Srebalus, Gabe Michlin, Veronica Koutsky, Michael Olsen, Corwin Daley, Paxton Kim-Tang, Matisse Rocca and Lindsay Osborne as those crazy monkeys, the Wickersham Brothers. Osborne, Rocca, Olsen and Koutsky also double as the frustrated but well-meaning parents of JoJo, The Mayor of Whoville and his wife.
The cast is completed by Lilia Urureta, Lucian Talamantez, Addison Bryan, and Gwyneth Daley as Thing One and Thing Two, Olivia Alva and Gwyneth Daley as Yertle the Turtle, Zoe Keller and Leah Broneer as Vlad Vladikoff, James Pudi, Fiona Pudi, Adeline Porter, Zoe Keller, Paxton Kim-Tang, Sydney Kim-Tang, and Leah Broneer as the Whos/Jungle Citizens, and Phoebe Dickenson, Siena Garrison, Chloe Lesieur, Vera Reibel, Ajla Cehajic, Amelia Girt, Aisling DeVilla, and Augie Matsuura as the fabulous bird girls.
I can’t think of a better way to celebrate the birthday month of Dr. Seuss than by sitting in this gem of a theatre we have here in South Pasadena and spending time with these terrifically talented kids in the joyous, magical world according to Seuss!
Seussical Jr. is on stage at Fremont Centre Theatre through March 25. Tickets available at www.youngstarstheatre.org. 1000 Fremont Ave, South Pasadena. (626) 269-3609. YST is a non-profit organization whose mission is to provide young performers a place to hone their craft in a supportive environment. Visit their website to find out more about their upcoming shows, auditions and summer camps.