Dr. Seuss’ “Seussical“ headlines for the Student Musical Theatre Program



Dylan Toolajian

“Seussical” is a musical that hasn’t appeared on mainstream American stages since 2007, but its absence has hardly diminished its hardcore following. As a musical based on children’s books — one that elicited lukewarm Broadway reviews, no less — “Seussical” has long enjoyed a puzzling, if well deserved, fandom. My expectations of VSMT’s production of this show were, consequently, mixed – hoping for greatness from a gifted cast working with kitschy material. 

But the show is a pleasure and a marvel – a kaleidoscopic spectacle backed by serious acting chops and precise, intelligent direction. 

It is arguably VSMT’s strongest offering in recent memory – no small feat – and a towering achievement for directors Patrick J. Walsh ’16 and Joseph Steccato ’17.

“Seussical” (lyrics by Lynn Ahrens, music by Stephen Flaherty) is a colorful, complicated story involving several of Dr. Seuss’ beloved children’s books. The main plot centers on Horton the Elephant and Jojo, a Who from Whoville, and their roles in Horton Hatches the Egg and Horton Hears a Who!, though many of Seuss’ other works and characters feature prominently. “Seussical” blends these narratives into a tangled plot that spans Seuss’ vast universe and our own world. 

Thanks in no small part to set designer Adam Butchy ’17 and master painter Emily Burton ’18, the set comes convincingly alive in each scene. 

Villanova itself makes an appearance in the form of a Seuss-ified “Awakening” statue – our beloved Oreo in the “Jungle of Nool.” 

The cast eagerly tears into Act I with “Oh, the Thinks You Can Think!”, a rousing number that sets the pace for the entire act. VSMT’s pit orchestra delivers a tight, crisp performance, led with precision by first-time Music Director Rachel Rorke ’16.  Of particular note in this production is the remarkable vocal talent of the entire cast – I’ve never had the pleasure of watching a student production with such consistent, balanced vocals. 

Walsh, Steccato, Rorke and choreographer Vincent Raspa ’17 have masterfully crafted a performance that impresses without feeling showy and charms without excess sentiment. “Havin’ a Hunch,” an Act II number, is a particular highlight, thanks to Raspa’s inventive choreography – a high note among the show’s many impressive numbers.

It’s nearly impossible to pick favorites from such an immensely talented cast, but a few succeed in stealing scenes from the rest of the cast. 

In a show dominated by explosive comedy and spectacular production, these are the actors demonstrating range and subtlety – Kasey Lynch ’17 as the brash and riff-tastic Sour Kangaroo, Kelly Dillon ’16 as the flirty and flighty Mayzie LaBird, Laura Campbell ’17 as the demure but determined Gertrude McFuzz, and Jack Evans ’19 and Alissa Foti ’16 as the frantically hilarious Mr. and Mrs. Mayor, respectively. 

At the heart of the show, Eric Stoll ’16 as Horton the Elephant leads the cast with sensitivity, vulnerability and a charming faith in the smallest of creatures. 

His performance draws the audience close,and captivates with smooth vocals and his trademark disarming impressions. 

The firecracker at the opposite end of the spectrum is the positively incandescent Caitlin Davies ’18 as Jojo, the smallest Who in Whoville with an attitude and an imagination too big for his own good. 

Where Stoll captures the audience, Davies confidently anchors it in place. The duo is a joy to watch and hear, particularly in their duet, “Alone in the Universe.”

All in all, “Seussical” is a triumph of which VSMT should be proud for years to come. 

The production is a superbly layered achievement – with music, dance, acting, sets, costumes, lighting, direction, and management tying into an enormously enjoyable performance. 

And don’t think yourself to grown up to enjoy it, either – to miss out on this show would make you “the biggest blame fool in the Jungle of Nool” too.

VSMT’s “Seussical” runs Thursday, Oct. 29 at 8:00 p.m., Friday, Oct. 20 at 8:00 p.m., and Saturday, Oct. 31 at 11:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m. in the St. Mary’s Hall Theater.