Dr. Seuss’s THE LORAX

Adapted by David Grieg
Directed by Max Webster
A Mirvish Presentation at the Royal Alexandra Theatre
December 17, 20017-January 21, 2018

(L-R): Simon P. Day, Laura Caldow, Ben Thompson, and David Ricardo-Pearce (photo: Manuel Harlan)

Oh, for the days when the grassland was green
and the fluffy white clouds were always so clean
and swans in their song and birds in the breeze
spread charms in the land of Truffuler Trees
which swayed and smiled with their glorious glaze
leaving innocent kiddies in awesome amaze.
Don’t worry, you fans of the famed Dr. Seuss,
this show’s got not one single crazy screw loose.
Those with a liking for witty Ed Lear,
David Greig proves he’s as extraordinaire
who knows of the Lorax who’s lifted away
and who’ll spin you the tale if you’re willing to pay
with openness of mind and a generous heart
for every audience must play its part.

This story is told in fine wit and song
and it’s not in the slightest overly long
as it unfolds with skill and breath-taking speed
with its green villain Once-ler exploiting Thneed
causing Havoc! Alarm! as he chops down trees
with no decent concern for environmental freeze.
The loss of a tuft much softer than silk
means nothing to those of his preening ilk.
He’s like Donald Trump hell bent on gold
who lures each despicable into his fold
and lusting for bigger and biggerly growth
he makes filthy money almost by rote,
inventing a humungous Super-axe-hacker
to whack down the trees in a solitary smacker.
His business is such an enormous success
‘e don’t realize ‘e’s making a mess!
Nor does he perceive what pollution can do
thinking any of us would do much the same too.

But hooray for The Lorax, who speaks for the trees
which are being chopped down as fast as you please.
His poor Bar-ba-loots are all getting the crummies
for there’s no more good food, only gas in their tummies.
And, as he sees through the smogulous smoke
his sweet Swomee-Swans can now only croak.
Machines chug daily, and by night without stop
making Gluppity-Glupp and Schloppity-Schlopp.
But the kids will not mind this moral a bit
for there’s plenty of humour and music to fit.
Modern day kids are not easily enchanted
and adults well know not to take them for granted;
this intrepid troupe, over here from Old Blighty,
display their collective skills all a-mighty,
led by frightfully clever S.P. Day
as nasty old Once-ler who (Boo!) gets his say
before little Lorax, walrus moustache a-twitch,
is brought to puppet life without any glitch.
Wandering minstrels and dancers add colour and nerve
and a trio of singers, oh, mama, what verve!
Cheers for music and lyrics by fine Charlie Fink
who deftly ensures that the tale will not sink.
Rob Howell’s design has fable allure
to match Matilda: The Musical –that is for sure.
So, mommies and daddies, get your kids all in tow
and set all their sit-upons in a neat row
at the Royal Alexandra for a really nice treat
as I, rhyme exhausted, beat a hasty retreat.

(This review in rhyme had its scansion fine-tuned by M. Heidler)

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A CHRISTMAS CAROL

By Matt Murray and Jeremy Diamond
Directed and Choreographed by Tracey Flye
A Ross Petty Production. At the Elgin Theatre,
November 30-December 31, 2017

(L-R): Dan Chameroy (Plumbum), Cyrus Lane (Scrooge), and Eddie Glen (Cratchit) photo: Racheal McCaig

Forget about Charles Dickens’s original fable. This mash-up musical does have a Scrooge loose (as the poster claims) and it does have the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Future (all played by that zany camp genius Dan Chameroy) but that’s about the only real connections to Dickens. No matter for anyone who has long revelled in Ross Petty’s wildly warped pantos, where the music comes from pop charts and where some of the most fun is generated by parody commercials (and Ross Petty appears in one to prove that he has not given up the ghost in performance) and by a loosey-goosey script that creates a plot that defies cohesion, though it has more than a fair share of adult jokes that zip over the heads of youngsters who, I suspect, would rather boo or cheer or dance in their seats.

Dan Chameroy (Plumbum) (photo: Racheal McCaig)

Anyway, in a nutshell, here’s a very brief summary of the nutty story: Scrooge (Cyrus Lane who is best as a straight-faced foil to Chameroy’s drag Plumbum) heads Scrooge Enterprises that has only the greediest ambition to control all of Christmas. His assistant, Bob Cratchit (the ever-returning comic elf, Eddie Glen), has invented an app called Christmas Crush that will turn every child into an addict under Scrooge’s evil spell. Cratchit hopes to earn his freedom from thralldom to the old miser by this invention, though he himself is no angel: he uses the Humbug singers to raise money for a fake charity—that he calls his own “sweet charity.”  Of course, the Ghosts appear to haunt the miser, but these ghosts are really deliciously crazy in a way that only Dan Chameroy can sell in his inimitable over-the-top improvs and double-entendres that have not only adults rolling in the aisles but some of the cast “corpsing” as well—including Lane’s beanpole miser.

There’s a romantic subplot as well—this one involving Jane, a Scrooge Enterprises employee who is a Citizen Jane of righteous feminism, in that she very justifiably campaigns for equal pay for women. A.J. Bridel, who is a one-woman enterprise all her own, plays her like a Norma Rae heroine, but with a winning beauty, who doesn’t stop with placards, but one who sings and dances her feisty way against chauvinistic or awkward men. Her romantic foil is handsome but romantically awkward Jack (Kyle Golemba), a wrapper in the literal sense, who has the right profile but the wrong pitch for his songs and wooing.

A.J. Bridel (Jane) (photo: Racheal McCaig)

The best fresh invention in the plot is the incarnation of Jacob Marley as a sexy Jamaican with dreadlocks and lyrical voice and movement. David Lopez, who plays him to the hilt, also does the best song performance in his “Despacito” number, though Bridel’s singing is not far behind. And director Tracey Flye also shapes the choreography, serving up twists, rock, and a fusion of other dance styles.

The set, costumes, and videography are gaudy, to say the least, but gaudiness is the least of the problems with this nutty panto. Best to keep the spirit of strict criticism away from the madcap nonsense on stage—such as Glen’s parody of Ellen Degeneres (Helen Sogenerous, anyone?) and the female trio of Ghostdusters. If you want more of such wild antic comedy, there’s Plumbum’s parody of “Thriller,” though even this number isn’t quite in the right key. But this is the Christmas season, isn’t it—though this show wants to turn it into a season of topical news about gender equality, fake news (yes, there’s that ugly spirit of the current White House hovering over certain moments), capitalist greed, etc. Just wish that these themes didn’t create a rather haphazard plot and didn’t carry us so far away from Dickens, whose original fable always has its own heart in the right place. Isn’t it always about the human heart, anyway?