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Saturday, March 28, 2009


(Pic: Greg King and Wendy Watson appear with Saxon Kinnear as Cat and Jodi Edmunds as Jojo)

Vibrant and professionally presented production does credit to Durban Girls College. (Review by Caroline Smart)

“A person’s a person, no matter how small” is the overall message of the musical Seussical and lovers of the works of Dr Seuss will have missed a great evening’s entertainment if they didn’t catch it at Durban Girls’ College before it closed last night. The production, albeit an amateur one, also marks the South African premiere of this Broadway show.

With music by Stephen Flaherty and lyrics by Lynn Ahrens, Seussical was co-conceived by Lynn Ahrens, Stephen Flaherty and Eric Idle, and premiered on Broadway in 2000. The lively and energetic musical is based on the colourful works of Dr Seuss – particularly Horton Hears a Who and Horton Hatches the Egg- and it’s hats off to director Wendy Watson (DGC senior Dramatic Arts teacher) for tackling such a daunting production.

The story deals with an elephant named Horton who discovers a speck of dust upon which lives a tiny community called the Who. He places it on a clover flower for safety and carries it with him through numerous adventures.

Not only did the DGC production encompass a team of close on 110 people made up of performers, musicians and stage crew, but the action calls for an elephant to sit in a tree nursing an egg after having been conned into the act of kindness by its irresponsible mother. Added to that, there are underwater sequences, mounted horsemen, a baby kangaroo and a circus.

No problem for Wendy – she turned to three major talents to help her: multi-award winning designer Greg King, choreographer and costume designer Kenlynn Sutherland and much-loved DGC music department’s head Debbie Hosking. Greg King’s flamboyant and vibrantly-coloured backdrops and rostra turn the otherwise bare stage into a magical space and his puppet figures are, as always, a delight. Kenlynn Sutherland’s attention to choreographic detail is evident and her costume designs are bright, individual and workable. I loved Horton’s outfit. The costumes, which numbered close on a hundred, were made by a dedicated team of parents and teachers.

Much of the show’s success is due to music director Debbie Hosking’s considerable energy and total commitment to any project she is involved in. Conducting from the piano, she keeps the music crisp and lively - always encouraging, her face mirrors the action. She will be a great loss to DCG and to Durban when she leaves South Africa shortly.

Heading the cast are the highly versatile Saxon Kinnear as mischievous and manipulative The Cat in the Hat and Jodi Edmunds as a spunky and energetic Jo Jo. Then there’s Zesipho Mncwango as an adorable lumbering Horton and Mweya Waetjen as a deliciously vain and lovelorn Gertrude McFuzz. I believe that if these four performers were available to move into mainstream theatre right now, they would be snapped up by any theatre management in Durban.

While the full company deserves accolade, mention must also be made of Catherine Clarke as Mayzie LaBird, Lungile Tembe as Sour Kangaroo and Phindokuhle Dlamini as General Genghis Khan Schmitz as well as Yasmine Allen and Julie Dancaster who played the Mayor of Whoville and his wife.

My husband, who is a casting agent and not prone to flattering remarks, dubbed this show the best schools’ production he has seen in years! This accolade is well-deserved. With excellent sound and lighting, the show is professionally presented. The cast is well-rehearsed, focused and very mature in terms of comedy timing, harmonies, stage presence and discipline.

Hopefully, Durban Girls College will reprise this production some time in the future for a slightly longer run when more audiences can enjoy its vibrancy and message that the imagination is all-powerful. As the script goes … “Oh, the thinks you can think!”- Caroline Smart