Beyond the Nest Reviews Blackfriars' Seussical the Musical | Kids Out and About Rochester <

Beyond the Nest Reviews Blackfriars' Seussical the Musical

by Carol White Llewellyn


On Friday, July 22, Blackfriars’ Seussical, the Musical opened with a splash—of music, dancing, color and lighting—that would make Dr. Seuss proud.

This production is the culmination of the Blackfriars Theatre Summer Intensive that trains the next generation of artists—rising juniors in high school through newly graduated seniors in college—many of whom are interested in pursuing careers in theatre. This production offers a great opportunity to see some incredible rising talents.

You may wonder, as I did, how you turn a cavalcade of Dr. Seuss books into a musical. It happens with a great deal of ingenuity. Lynn Ahrens, Stephen Flaherty, and Eric Idle, who conceptualized the play, pulled together plots and characters from at least five or more different books by Dr. Seuss, to come up with the story line. It does wander a bit, as you can imagine, being based on Dr. Seuss' work. That may be part of the reason the play didn’t receive Broadway acclaim. Nevertheless, you can expect a “fantastical” ride, one that reaches from the Jungle of Nool to Whoville and beyond, as we follow Horton the Elephant’s quest to save his friends in Whoville, who live on a speck of dust, as well as to prove he’s not crazy (since no one else can hear the Whos).

Step into Blackfriars for this production and you are plopped smack dab into the middle of his books, surrounded by 360 degrees of magical Seuss, gloriously created by scenic designer Abigal Manard. A brightly-clad cast invites theater-goers to pick up crayons to color, have caricatures done, or draw on a mural that becomes part of the set as you wait for the show to start. While clearly not a traditional Blackfriars’ production, Seussical, the Musical is, as Artistic Director Danny Hoskins rightly claims, traditional Blackfriars’ quality.

The show sparkles with (mostly) regional talents. As the loyal, steadfast Horton the elephant—the friend everyone wishes they had—Ian Yates manages to overcome his svelte exterior, giving substantial substance and a rich voice to the role. Claire Gratto as Mrs. Mayor and Stevie Burggraaf as Mr. Mayor, who is magistrate of Whoville, form an incomparable duo whose voices entwine delectably as they try to understand their son JoJo and his tendency to think himself into trouble. When his parents enroll him in a military school designed to hammer the “thinking” out of him, Charlie Bohrer (who also gives dramatic punctuation to the production with his trumpet) as General Genghis Khan Schmitz lends his lush voice and a subtle veneer of humor to his rigid character. Mason Morrison is delightful as the precocious JoJo.

Ireland Fernandez-Cosgrove plays the mischievous Cat in the Hat, but really gets to showcase the breadth of her talent as she also morphs in and out of other cameo roles. Jade Hill, who plays Sour Kangaroo, bent on destroying Horton’s credibility, is a force to be reckoned with. Her voice, which ripples easily between thrilling theatricality and gospel greatness, has the power to raise the rafters. Anne Olivia Concotta plays the flamboyant and self-absorbed bird Mayzie with zest and flair. It is Mayzie who persuades Horton to hatch her egg so she can vacation in Palm Springs. As her meek avion neighbor and counterpart Gertrude McFuzz, who is in love with Horton but thinks she must grow a gorgeous tale to attract the pachyderm, Bridget Welch and her versatile voice wins our admiration and Horton’s heart.

Many of us grew up with Dr. Seuss. If you set aside the poetry and crazy characters, the foundation of his books includes important messages of friendship, acceptance of others (“A person’s a person, no matter how small”), and self-acceptance. They encourage creative free thought to escape nonsensical conformity (Dr. Seuss initially wrote the Cat in the Hat to free generations of beginning readers from Dick and Jane primers). In spite of the recent backlash against some of the books written by Theodor Seuss Geisel, who wrote under the name of Dr. Seuss, most of his books hold inspiring, higher messages within the story line. Those themes and that goal is at the heart of this joyous musical.

Blackfriar’s Seussical, the Musical is a genuinely fun show to see, with a dynamic and talented cast and ensemble, high energy choreography and lively, robust, and gloriously-sung music that reflects the playfulness of Dr. Seuss’ books, which makes it perfect for children and adults alike. Catch Blackfriar Theatre’s Seussical the Musical onstage through Sunday, July 31, 2022 only, and you’ll be singing “How Lucky You Are” to have seen it!

Note that vaccination records are not required to attend Blackfriars' Theatre, but currently, masks are.

Photos: Goat Factory Media Entertainment/Ron Heerkens Jr. 


Carol White Llewellyn is Editor of