Southwark Playhouse, London – until 29 December 2018
Guest reviewer: Maeve Campbell
It’s difficult to work out who the musical Seussical is for and why it’s been revived. Trying to imagine how a 10-year-old might watch this show doesn’t help answer these questions. In fact, it clouds the answer even more. I think if I was 10 and watching this show, I’d feel utterly patronised by it.
Even a re-cap of the plot is hard to muster. The show, written in 2000 by Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty, is essentially just (a very long feeling) 75 minutes of loud noises and bright colours. Every song – and the show is basically only songs – sounds exactly like every other song, perky and screechy. The ensemble cast’s diction is generally so poor that it’s impossible to hear if these songs contain any interesting lyrics. Reading that the show was co-conceived by Eric Idle is a surprise and has prompted a stark re-evaluation of his prior work that he must be the bad Python.
Marc Pickering, as the Cat in the Hat, does his best to steer this sinking vessel. He gives a good, and remarkably restrained and skilled performance as the zany troublemaker and narrator. The sets and costumes are also nice. These aren’t enough to redeem the tedium of this show.
This show certainly hasn’t been made for cynical twenty-somethings, but there is something truly cynical about this show. The Dr Seuss books I remember from childhood were clever and silly and sometimes a little bit sinister, and this is a total misappropriation of that work. I’m not so long off being a child that I can’t remember what art affected and entertained me and Seuss was up there, but Seussical would not have been.