Stephanie Conching, left, is Gertrude McFuzz in Diamond Head Theatre's production of "Seussical," a musical based on the books of Dr. Seuss.

Seuss musical sets
holiday tone

A cat without whiskers. An elephant with no trunk. Overlook the lack of conventional costuming and Diamond Head Theatre's new production of "Seussical" is great pre-Christmas fun. Director Greg Zane deploys an energetic and talented cast through a contemporary mix-and-match musical inspired by the timeless children's stories of Dr. Seuss.

"Seussical," presented by Diamond Head Theatre, continues through Dec. 19 with performances at 8 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays, 3 p.m. and 8 p.m. Saturdays, and 4 p.m. Sundays. Tickets are $12 to $42 (discounts for students, military and seniors). Call 733-0274 or visit the Web site www.diamondheadtheatre.com


Diamond Head Theatre is hosting a pre-show story time before its Saturday matinee performances of "Seussical" this Saturday and Dec. 18.

Meet on the theater's garden lanai at 2 p.m. for light refreshments and to hear DHT's managing director, Deena Dray (Saturday), or Eden-Lee Murray (Dec. 18) read a favorite "Dr. Seuss" tale, before seeing the characters come to life in Stephen Flaherty and Lynn Ahrens' musical based on the whimsical books.

Patrons are also invited to meet their favorite "Seussical" characters after each matinee beginning Saturday.

Tim Albrecht (choreography) and Emmett Yoshioka (musical direction) share credit for making the dance numbers consistent highlights and for providing substance to most of the smaller musical interludes. Yoshioka and his musicians likewise do justice to the show's assortment of pop, gospel and big-band swing melodies.

Colin Miyamoto stars as the Cat in the Hat, with Scott Moura as Horton the Elephant, Grace Bell Humerickhouse as Mayzie LaBird and Stephanie Conching as Gertrude McFuzz. Anyone likely to come to "Seussical" probably knows these characters already -- and also where Sour Kangaroo (Allison L.B. Maldonado) and the three Wickersham Brothers (Arthur Johansen, Kyle Malis and Chris Villasenor) fit in.

Co-writers Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty created "Seussical" primarily from two early Seuss classics -- "Horton Hatches an Egg" and "Horton Hears a Who" -- plus "Gertrude McFuzz." Characters from other stories have secondary roles. The Grinch pops up once or twice, Yertle the Turtle appears as a judge, there's a reference to the Circus McGurkus and the show ends with a big-band song-and-dance rendition of "Green Eggs & Ham."

Moura has only gray clothes, a gray cap with hanging earflaps and his own talent to work with but establishes himself as an engaging character actor and Horton as the hero of the scrambled stories. Moura's body language and facial expressions effectively express a wide range of emotions as the loyal and steadfast elephant endures numerous trials, tribulations and indignities while incubating an egg for an irresponsible mother-to-be and protecting the microscopic world of the Whos.

Conching gives an endearing performance as Gertrude, the bird who overdoes it when getting her tail enhanced and ends up unable to fly. "Seussical" does not have any instantly memorable songs of the sort that once made Broadway shows a source of mainstream pop hits, but Conching brings a touching sweetness to "Notice Me, Horton," the number that introduces a romantic angle to "Seussical" and provides a second explanation for Gertrude's desire for a bigger tail.

Local stage veteran Maldonado again displays her show-stopping vocal talent every time Sour Kangaroo gets to sing. Johansen likewise reaffirms his acrobatic talent as the most athletic of the three marvelous Wickersham Brothers. The Wickershams' big number, "Monkey Around," is also impressive.

Lynn Kinoshita, Michelle Baltazar and Yvette M. Garrison add color and eye candy as a trio of glamorous birds.

Dawn Oshima (set design) and Sara Ward (props) make essential contributions, giving the show an authentic Seussian look despite many of the costume choices. Oshima's sets capture the look of Seuss's cartoon world. Ward's props -- the fish in particular, and the various items employed to represent Horton's odyssey from jungle to circus -- add welcome points of reference in several scenes, and comic nuances to the Circus McGurkus as well.

TX Tario displayed the talent of a much older performer on opening night as Jojo, the story's youthful protagonist (Ka'iana Kau alternates in the role). Miyamoto distinguishes himself in secondary roles -- most notably as a waiter who encounters Mayzie in Florida.

Elaborate, colorful and not burdened with the restrictions imposed by political correctness or a secular seasonal agenda, DHT's "Seussical" is positive and empowering holiday entertainment for children and the young at heart.

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