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Teen critic Yelton on ‘Seussical’: Energy makes up for technical problems

By Porter Yelton

Eleven Charlotte-area high school students are competing in the new theater criticism category of the Blumey Awards, the Blumenthal Performing Arts’ annual musical theater awards program (read more about that here.) Each student writes three reviews; the following is one entry:

As the current title-holder of the Blumey Award for Best Musical, Best Set Construction and Best Lighting Execution, South Point High School had a lot of expectations to fulfill with its March production of “Seussical.”

“Seussical” is a musical integration of many of Dr. Seuss’ most famous children’s stories. The story revolves around Horton, a talking elephant who discovers a tiny world resting atop a piece of dust. Many scenes delve into life within that tiny world, focusing on Jojo, a young boy from Whoville who is sent away to military school because of his friendship with the thought-provoking Cat in the Hat. With help from the friendly, faithful Gertude McFuzz (a bird with a one-feathered tail who fights feelings of insecurity) and the hilarious Mayzie (a mischievous, conniving bird with extravagant feathers and wings), the characters ward off all conflict and prove that friendship and determination are keys to peace and happiness.

South Point’s beautiful set was comprised of massive recreations of Dr. Seuss’s books that vividly and accurately portrayed the real covers and bindings of classics like “Oh, the Places You’ll Go!” and “Green Eggs and Ham.” It is sure to be a Blumey contender again this year. An array of colorful and eye-catching costumes that fit perfectly with the characters and the story line complemented the set to create a visually enchanting feel.

However, several things about this show perplexed me. Part of my struggle was the confusing story line itself. Having not read a Dr. Seuss book since elementary school, I found that the plot became very convoluted simply because it took a moment to recall what a “whickersham” or a “Circus McGurkus” was. “Seussical” is definitely not a production that one can easily understand without a refresher on Seuss’s books.

Technical and sound difficulties also distracted from the action on stage. The authenticity of South Point’s production was slightly diminished by implementing garbled canned music as opposed to that of a real student orchestra. The music was often too loud and the volume of the microphones too low, resulting in a loud buzzing sound that was more audible than the actors’ voices. A shaky spotlight that did not always focus on the correct characters was also detrimental to the technical aspect of the show. While I recognize that many technical issues are not the fault of the South Point Players, they are noteworthy because of their effect on the experience as a whole.

That being said, the thoughtful addition of many “Seuss-like” props such as a tiny pink piano and a bendy, distorted bathtub enhanced the show’s visual quality and distracted from its imperfections. Although the crackling microphones and disorienting lights had me periodically wondering how long it would be until the finale, the cast members’ enthusiasm and interest in their art always drew me back into the show I was witnessing.

Every cast member rose above his or her personal challenges and delivered an energy that kept the show moving and captivated the audience’s interest—something much more valuable than the quality of a theater’s speakers.

This article is part of the Charlotte Arts Journalism Alliance (a consortium of local media dedicated to writing about the arts) and the Blumenthal Student Critic Program.
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