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Theater Review: ‘Seussical’ quite a musical at CAST

“Seussical the Musical,” through April 29, Catasauqua High School, is the perfect vehicle for exhibiting the exceptional talents of the Catasaqua Area Showcase Theatre’s performers and volunteers.

In the opening night performance, April 20, seen for this review, director Bill Nothstein pulled out all the stops from the pages of the beloved storyteller Dr. Seuss.

Written by Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty, and debuting on Broadway in 2000, “Seussical” is a musical compilation of 14 of Seuss’ children’s stories. It’s Cat in the Hat meets Horton, the Grinch, Cindy Lou Who and all the other Whos.

Kristofer Swanson was astounding as The Cat in the Hat, who frolics through the scenes on stage and into the audience, keeping up the tempo and helping maintain continuity. He abounds with energy and has a remarkable repertoire of body movements and facial expressions that effectively express his character and the situations in which he finds himself.

Other notables among a large cast of notables are Richard Warmkessel III as the sympathetic Horton and Angelina Dries as the boy JoJo. They have a very touching scene when they sing together that they are “Alone in the Universe.”

The “Universe” scene and many other are enhanced by the exceptionally innovative and colorful set and prop design, lighting and special effects. It is difficult to credit any one person for any of these accomplishments because, as the program and director notes insist, the production is a group effort. Some names to mention, however, are Bob Heffelfinger, who constructed the very Seuss-like sets from the director’s sketches, and Rick Eckhart, who designed and painted the gigantic imaginative backdrops.

Sound and lighting effects, including swirling screen projections during the “Universe” scene, are by Center Stage Lighting & Rigging, LLC, Allentown.

Among the dazzling special effects are lighted neon-colored flying fish puppets swirling through the air on long poles carried by black-clothed extras.

The costumes are among the most astonishing aspects of “Seussical.” There are 50 actors playing 112 characters, often requiring two or three costume changes. This definitely is not a show where you could ask cast members to wear something from home. There are matching cadet uniforms for 12 boys, outfits for all the Whos and more, and, of course, Horton’s elephant costume. No wonder costuming credit is given to four volunteers: Elizabeth Hillanbrand, Karen Coughlin, Annette Englert and Rose Marhefka.

The six-member orchestra is directed by Kim VanOrden, who also brought out the best in the show’s very accomplished singers.

From the proficiency of the singing, to the remarkable sets and costumes and special effects, Catasaqua Area Showcase Theatre’s production of “Seussical the Musical” scores an 11 on a scale of 10.

Tickets: Catasauqua High School box office, 2500 W. Bullshead Road, Northampton; cattytheatre.org; 610-841-3747