In a stroke of perfect synergy, YST’s production of “Seussical Jr” opened this week amid celebrations of what would have been Dr. Seuss’ 113th birthday today! There are month-long celebrations being held in his honor all over the world and this wonderful youth production is indeed a most delightful way to celebrate. This might be my favorite YST production to date since they arrived here in South Pasadena just over a year ago. “Seussical Jr,” with all of its earnest, feel good messages wrapped in a beautiful score is the perfect vehicle for this enthusiastic and vibrant, young company.
Young and old alike will be inspired to break out all of your favorite Seuss books as this musical takes you on a ride through the Land of Nool where we encounter Horton hearing a Who, the mayor and citizens of Whoville including little JoJo with a wild imagination, mischievous monkeys, sassy birds and other jungle beasts, all who question Horton and JoJo and their big dreams. It’s a bit of a mash-up of “Horton Hears a Who” and “Horton Hatches the Egg,” bringing in the storyline of Horton’s neighbor, Gertrude with the plain and tiny tail, who is in love with him and the selfish, flamboyant bird, Mayzie, who flies off to Palm Beach. The Cat in the Hat leads us through the scenes, sometimes jumping in himself to great comic result.
At the center of it all is the kind-hearted, ever optimistic pachyderm, Horton, played with pure innocence & an angelic voice by Brayden Nguyen. Giving a can’t take your eyes off him interpretation of Horton is George Dalton in Cast Two (there are two complete casts alternating performances). Shayna Proctor and Ava Broneer take on the role of JoJo with wide-eyed optimism and charm. Two YST favorites, Aidan Martin and Jack Wisinski, play the fun role of the Cat in the Hat. Martin is very funny when the Cat becomes a jazz pianist and Wisinski radiates pure joy.
Cassidy Paige’s beautiful voice infuses Gertrude with just the right amount of longing and sass while Lucy Fossa brings her own touching vulnerability to the plain Jane bird. Eadan Franklynn is all Carmen Miranda verve as the self-involved Mayzie while Aine Lee is clearly having a ball in all her brightly colored, feathery fabulousness. Cassidy Carroll and Ridley Downs are bold and brassy as the Sour Kangaroo while the impossibly adorable Margeaux Reign and Jazimin Dykes bring the aw factor as Young Kangaroo.
I can’t express enough how much the entire cast emanates the joy and whimsy of a world according to Seuss and will make you believe that “a person’s a person, no matter how small”.
The cast also includes Jacqueline Nancy Eubank & Harrison Tang as The Mayor, Carolyn Mottern & Jessica Liu as Mrs. Mayor, Ava Broneer, Lucy Fossa, Aisling DeVilla & Jacqueline Mottern as Thing 1 & Thing 2, Chloe Jimenez, Lindsay Osborne, Ellia White & Sofia Richards as the Wickersham Brothers, Keira Conneen & Becklyn Zeng as Yertle the Turtle, Augie Matsuura and Anastasia Papadopoulos as the Grinch, Ashley Alexander, Olympia Papadopoulos, Leah Elliott as Whos & Jungle citizens.
Seussical Jr. is on stage at Fremont Centre Theatre through March 19. Tickets available at www.youngstarstheatre.org. 1000 Fremont Ave, South Pasadena. (626) 269-3609. YST is a non-profit organization whose mission is to provide young performers a place to hone their craft in a supportive environment. Visit their website to find out more about their upcoming shows, auditions and summer camps.