This was always going to be a risky one. Back in November-time, I got a Groupon offer for “Seussical – the Musical”. I’ve never actually bought a Groupon offer before, so had no idea how quickly they sold out. It was 6:30am ish and I made a bleary-eyed decision. Roo loves Dr Seuss books and is always asking Nathan to read them to him. He was bound to love a musical based on the books, especially with all the musical-loving genes on my side of the family.
So, that was Roo. Did I think about Eva? Nah, not really…. I rarely do. She’s just a little bundle that goes wherever we go, right?
Wrong! She used to be. Even in November, she was growing out of the bundle phase and into the food-flinging phase but at least she was immobile. Then over Christmas, she learnt to crawl, which naturally led to pulling herself up (it seems to be natural for my children anyway…). Now she sizes up every opportunity in terms of “How can I climb that?”. You can see how well this is going to work in a confined space. When I took her to the cinema on Wednesday it was brightly lit and there was a big space for crawlin’. I didn’t really think this through.
Well, it’ll be fine! She’ll sleep, as long as she doesn’t break the habit of a lifetime and fall asleep in the buggy on the way back from BuggyFit. Oh, there she goes….She never does this when I want her to….
So, to summarize we had a wide-awake baby girl and an overtired boy. Aces. The turnaround from BuggyFit was tight but somehow we’d made it out of the house, on the tube and to the theatre on time. We settled into our seats (the tickets suggested we leave half an hour for this but that seemed excessive) but Eva just would not settle. A dram of milk slowed her down for a bit and then she grew bored of that. She wanted to play! I gave her a teething toy, which she flung to the ground repeatedly. This was going to be hard work.
At least she looked Seuss-y! Check out those stripy legs!
Did I mention this was Reuben’s first trip to the theatre? We’d never been brave enough before. But it seemed to be going well, as he bopped his head around to the opening music and cheered as the Cat in the Hat came onstage.
Then it went less well. Nathan later explained it like this: “he liked it when the Cat was on stage…he didn’t like it when the Cat wasn’t on stage”. By the look of the promotional material (see top), I was confident that the Cat in the Hat would feature quite heavily in this Seuss-themed musical. He is, after all, the good doctor’s most famous creation. But he didn’t feature heavily. He narrated it, but there were large portions of the story where he didn’t appear at all.
The main story was a mix of “Horton hears a Who” and “Horton hatches an egg”. I knew that in advance and thought it would be fine, even though we didn’t have those books. After all, Roo’s favourite animal is an elephant! But there’s the problem – as far as Roo was concerned, there was no elephant in this. There was a man in a hat. It took me long enough to work out that he was meant to be Horton so no wonder Roo had problems believing it. I personally am a bit phobic about people dressing as animals in a “Lion King” way (I have no problem with it in a “Trigger Happy TV” way) but for a small child, it would have been much more engaging if the characters had looked a bit more animal-y. I was enjoying the singing and dancing but I wasn’t seeing birds and monkeys, I was seeing Flapper Girls and Teddy Boys (and wondering which weird mixed-up decade we were in). So if I couldn’t see them as jungle animals, I very much doubt that Roo could.
(And let’s not talk too much about Eva. By now, she was either pulling the hair of the little girl in front of us or standing up at the back of the seat, with her face in the way of the little girl behind us. Bad time to be a little girl)
And that’s my main gripe with Seussical. As a production, it didn’t look very Seuss-y. As an adult, I understand that the story is lifted from a Dr Seuss book and I liked the songs and dances. But it didn’t have the look and feel of a Dr Seuss book. Seuss has a very distinctive style (which was captured by the backdrop….not very well captured by the dark photo above) and these people could have been acting out anything. That’s why Roo reacted so well to the Cat in the Hat – he was a recognisable character from the books. His favourite bit was when the Cat woke JoJo up by banging a spoon on a frying pan – it made him laugh out loud and certainly evoked the mischievous character of the Cat. The Whos also looked authentically Seuss-y, with their matching round glasses. But the monkeys and birds just looked like people, and Roo didn’t like them. When they ran round the audience, he thought it was funny at first and then scary. He quite liked the elephant but didn’t think he looked very elephant-y.
At some point, I decided to take Eva out. She was just struggling too much. I let her have a play at the back, but she biffed her face while crawling and howled, so I took her right out. By the time we came back in (defying the “no readmittance” signs, sorry!) it was an hour in and Roo was ready to go. So we left, with only 20 minutes left. Not too bad, considering.
I asked Roo whether he thought it was fun and he said yes. I asked if it was scary. He said yes again. I asked whether it was more fun or more scary. He chose scary. So, not a resounding success. I think, in all honesty, he was too young for it (and 3 and a half). But also, if the characters had looked like Dr Seuss characters and had done a bit more talking in rhyme and less singing, he would have liked it more.
On the way out, we met Simon Callow, who shares the theatre for his one-man version of “A Christmas Carol”. So that was a bonus!
VERDICT: A bit “scary” for Roo’s age. Definitely not right for Eva’s age. The blurb said it was the “theatre for young audiences version” and “suitable for the whole family” but it’s probably aimed at slightly older families.