REVIEW: Hingham Civic Music Theatre’s ‘Seussical the Musical’ is groovy, dazzling, and endlessly imaginative

What a time to know Dr. Seuss.  Not only was Dr. Seuss’s new book, Horse Museum, recently released from some of Seuss’s old manuscripts, but this month marked the Canadian debut of an immersive, interactive touring exhibition based on his legacy.  “Dr. Seuss Experience” is expected to arrive in Boston later this year.  After all this time, we are still celebrating Theodor Seuss Geisel who would have been 115 years old this year.

Hingham Civic Music Theatre (HCMT) found many reasons to celebrate Dr. Seuss with their family-friendly, brightly imaginative, and insightful Seussical the Musical continuing through Sunday, October 27 at Hingham Town Hall in Hingham, Massachusetts.  Click here for more information and tickets.

HCMT Seussical cast

The cast of Seussical Photo courtesy of Kerry Tondorf/Hingham Civic Music Theatre

From the introspective yearnings of Solla Sollew to the wise, multi-tiered significance of the number, How Lucky You Are, Seussical runs the gamut of silly, sorrowful, and thoughtful musical moments. The catchy, distinct, and clever soundtrack resonated through the live orchestra, newly situated onstage above all the action.

Directed by Victoria Kirichok-Pratt, Seussical is a musical adventure that strings together a few of Dr. Seuss’s most popular works while cleverly weaving in valuable life lessons along the way.  What makes it such a wonderful musical is beneath its comical, brightly-lit fun lie universal truths for the young and old.  Zany, imaginative tales unveil insights about vanity, war, sticking to one’s convictions, and just plain coping with life’s inevitable difficulties.  Even the darker topics remain family-friendly as audiences delve deeper into Dr. Seuss’s vast and unique universe.

HCMT Seussical Jojo and the Whos

Paul Antico as Mayor, Jean Lyon as Mrs. Mayor and Marcus Myers as JoJo Photo courtesy of Kerry Tondorf/Hingham Civic Music Theatre

At the center of this universe is adorable, inquisitive, and charming JoJo Who, portrayed by Marcus Myers.  With wide eyes and a sweet smile, JoJo is starting to learn that life is much more complicated and unpredictable than he ever thought possible.

Much like Dr. Seuss, this wildly dynamic cast is much more than meets the eye and with award-winning costume designer Kathryn Ridder, each character’s outward appearance certainly shines.  The catchy opening number, Oh The Things You Can Think, reveals the brilliant and beautiful costumes which include some that look like they walked right off Seuss’s innovative books.  Bursting with color, mismatched, madcap patterns and edgy, impossible hemlines deliver that peculiar Seuss quality.  One character was even decked out as a Christmas tree.  Bird girls shimmer, Wickershams strut in sunshades and fringe, and the Whos revel in vintage flair.  There’s fine detail in each costume, like a hint of red glimmering under the tails of the Cat in the Hat’s black jacket.

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Wearing his signature top hat and “tails,” Michael Warner mischievously portrays The Cat and the Hat as part Master of Ceremonies, adviser, narrator, and occasional troublemaker.  Warner bounces and glides along the stage, popping in to depict a variety of characters and reveling in the occasional chaos such as Egg, Nest and Tree and It’s Possible.

Justin Grankewicz delivers a sweet and sympathetic performance as ceaselessly faithful and compassionate Horton, who hears a mysterious sound from a speck of dust.    Grankewicz’s earnest face and charming demeanor with JoJo, Gertrude, and the community make him easy to root for.  Myers and JoJo deliver a heartfelt rendition of Alone in the Universe and Jessica DePalo brings unassuming, awkward charm to Gertrude who shines as an avid, amusing storyteller in All for You and Notice Me Horton.

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With a Cheshire grin, Carole Shannon struts and shimmers as self-involved Mayzie, showing great comic timing and chemistry among her girl birds and Gertrude.  Sour Kangaroo, portrayed with a wealth of sass and quite the set of pipes by Katia Green, has plenty to say accompanied by her equally streetwise young sidekick Natalia Tsourides.  They make quite the charismatic pair.  In a robe and festive pajamas, Bruno Barbudo’s bearded Grinch is a creature of few words, but his priceless morose scowl makes a statement all its own.

Hingham Civic Music Theatre continues Seussical the Musical through Sunday, October 27 at Hingham Town Hall, 210 Central Street in Hingham, Massachusetts.  Click here for more information and tickets and follow HCMT on Facebook for upcoming events and more.

REVIEW: Hingham Civic Music Theatre’s ‘The Annulment’ makes parting sweet sorrow

First comes love.  Then comes marriage.   This new musical takes a look at what may come next.

Playwright Sheila Kelleher,  Music Director John Ferguson, and choreographer Cat Umano collaborated for a two day workshop of a world premiere musical destined to be submitted to a future New York festival.  Hingham Civic Music Theatre presented ‘The Annulment’ on Friday, August 23 and Saturday, August 24 at Hingham Town Hall in Hingham, Massachusetts.  This show contains some adult humor.  Click here for more information and more about Hingham Civic Music Theatre’s future productions.

With music accompaniment consisting of Music Director and pianist John Ferguson and percussionist John Duff, the inviting set was well suited for this production as the show travels to different eras and timeframes.

‘The Annulment’ may have been about three different couples and what happens after they said, ‘I do,’ but what truly gives this show more emotional weight are the larger questions it pursues.  What does it take for long-lasting happiness?  What stirs the soul?  What constitutes an annulment and when is it just legal jargon on a piece of paper?  Celia, portrayed with quick-witted cynicism and wistfulness by Carole Shannon, just wants some answers.

Hingham Civic Music Theatre The Annulment Celia and Nadine

Carole Shannon as Celia and Stephanie Blood as Nadine Photo courtesy of Hingham Civic Music Theatre

‘The Annulment’ could very well have developed into a drawn out court battle, but it instead explores the nature of relationships, love, loss, and everything in between.  The cast has a very natural chemistry and it is not difficult to imagine this group being longtime friends.  The show is also not without its share of wild and sometimes cynical humor.  James Swindler channeled a Vince Vaughn vibe as Dave, a playful, party-loving guy who has an uninhibited passion for his equally wild wife Nadine, a lively and comical performance by Stephanie Blood. Their uninhibited and flirtatious antics are among the most amusing parts in the production and they both clearly look like they are enjoying themselves.

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Carole Shannon shows a pensive, vulnerable side as Celia, her smooth vibrato poignant during the numbers, When I Used to Sing and What We Missed.  Charlie McKitrick impressively portrays Tony, a critical man who constantly worries more about outward appearances than anything else.  ‘The Annulment’ is skilled at building tension and there is no lack between these two.  Offering a sympathetic, non-judgmental ear is Deanna Lohnes as Celia’s supportive friend Sabrina.  ‘The Annulment’ is a funny, relatable musical comedy with heart when life doesn’t quite deliver a happily ever after.

Hingham Civic Music Theatre has been entertaining audiences for over 70 years.  This fall, ‘The Dr. Seuss Experience’ exhibit will be heading to Boston and Hingham Civic Music Theatre is also presenting ‘Seussical The Musical‘ in October.  Click here for all the details and their recently announced 2020 season.