CCM's 150th anniversary season will include the Mainstage Series debut of Stephen Flaherty and Lynn Ahren’s “Seussical.” 

The whimsical world of Dr. Seuss has officially landed in the Patricia Corbett Theater now through Oct. 29 as CCM opened their first MainStage musical of the season: “Seussical.”

World-renowned CCM alum Stephen Flaherty and lyricist Lynn Ahrens composed the musical. All of your favorite characters from Dr. Seuss’s beloved children’s books come to life on the stage as the Cat in the Hat narrates a combination of stories, primarily through the plotline of “Horton Hears a Who.”

The energy in the theater was bubbling with excitement. Students, parents of performers and crew, and season ticket holders were in high spirits. Audience members Suzanne Has and Lois Brenner shared their past experiences with CCM’s MainStage productions.

“We’ve been season ticket holders for forever. There are so many good shows,” they said. “We come for the musicals and the operas.”

Upon entering the theater, student Julia James gasped as she saw the preset. The stage was dark, lit only by a lamppost with a street sign that read “MULBERRY Street,” and hanging sphere-shaped lights. On the P.O. Box attached to the lamppost was the classic Dr. Seuss hat.

“Oh, I love this already,” James said. “I love this set because it’s so different from what you normally would expect from Seuss, which makes it so much more intriguing.”

Among audience members were Lisa and Eric Thams who beamed with pride.

“Our son is in the musical as Horton,” they said. “We came for his opening, and then we are coming back next weekend to catch the last few performances. We saw it once a long time ago as a middle school production to support some kids that were in it, but we are excited to see CCM’s production. We were listening to the soundtrack on the way down to get excited.”

They certainly had a lot to be proud of. Frankie Thams delivered a beautifully raw performance as Horton the Elephant. From the minute he entered the stage, he had this lovely likability about him, so it was very easy to root for Horton as he goes through all the tribulations during the show.

Emily Royer, who plays opposite of Thams as Gertrude McFuzz, also delivered an absolutely charming portrayal of the one tail feathered bird. Throughout the show, Gertrude tries desperately to win over Horton’s affection. Act One’s “Notice Me, Horton,” the duet between Horton and Gertrude, left the audience sniffling.

Other standout performers included Donelvan Thigpen as The Boy, Kevin Chlapecka as The Cat in the Hat, Bryn Purvis as Mayzie LaBird and Jenny Mollet as Sour Kangaroo. The entire cast had such contagious energy through the entire show, which kept audience members on the edge of their seats. For "Seussical," you have to be paying attention or you might miss a character. The ensemble and the Cat in Hat have enormous amounts of character changes at a drop of a hat. All of which were extremely clear because of the amazing color coding.

Second-year CCM student Marissa Picciuto was the prop master for this show and shared her experience with "Seussical."

“What was really cool about this production was we created color stories for the different characters so you could tell the worlds apart and its less confusing. For example, all the Whos are blue and yellow, and all of the Cat’s props are red,” Picciuto said. “Another sweet touch is that Horton and Gertrude have bits of each others’ costumes in their own. For example, Gertrude is primarily blue, but has pink in her wig, and Horton has a little bit of blue in his wig in addition to his pink suspenders and bow tie.”

The vibrant colors in the props, costumes and lighting against the primarily black and white set paints the picture as the story unfolds. This is a production to not be missed.

As a staple song from the show suggests, “Follow Your Hunch” and go see “Seussical” now through Oct. 29.


Anne Simendinger has been with The News Record since 2017 as a staff reporter, digital producer, and life and arts editor. She is the Cincinnati senior editor for BroadwayWorld and the Scripps Howard Communication Intern for Ensemble Theatre Cincinnati.