Oh, the things you can do in 24 hours!
A spotlight shone on a white- and red-striped hat in the middle of the stage, and as the lights came on in the Carl J. Shapiro Theater, the actors erupted onto the stage with a burst of raw energy. In a regular musical, that would be what you’d expect when the curtain rises for the beginning of the first act. However, this was no ordinary musical.
Each year, Brandeis holds the 24-Hour Musical. Over the course of 24 hours, a group of actors and stage crew put together an entire musical, including learning lines and choreography, building sets and creating costumes. On Sunday night, Brandeis students saw the culmination of their efforts.
This year, the musical of choice was “Seussical,” a mishmash of Dr. Seuss’ stories. The world of “Seussical” is created by the small boy Jojo (Ryan Del Vasto ’20), who invents the show’s narrator, The Cat in the Hat (Ben Greene ’21). The plot follows the elephant Horton (Noah Schultz ’21), who discovers a speck of dust on a clover which turns out to be a planet filled with tiny Who people. The other creatures in the Jungle of Nool, however, do not believe that the Whos exist and, led by the Sour Kangaroo (Leah Chanen ’20) and the hilariously mischievous Wickersham Brothers, try to excommunicate Horton.
As Horton tries to communicate with the Whos, his shy bird neighbor Gertrude McFuzz (Lauren Komer ’21) seeks to gain Horton’s attention but is ashamed of her one-feather tail. Komer’s strong yet tentative voice and solid acting made her a very convincing Gertrude. She meets Mayzie La Bird (Sarah Lavin ’21), an ostentatious, narcissistic bird with a many-feathered tail who suggests that Gertrude take pills in order to get a larger tail and Horton’s attention. Lavin’s acting was very good, but her singing frequently was flat.
Meanwhile, on the planet Who, Jojo is now in the story as the son of the Mayor of Whoville (Nyomi White ’20) and has gotten in trouble at school for thinking too many abnormal “thinks.” As a result of his strange thinks, Jojo is sent to the military, which is led by the evil General Genghis Khan Schmitz (Nate Rtishchev ’21). Rtishchev was imposing as the General, setting the Who cadets in line with his militaristic strut.
The Wickersham Brothers and the eagle Vlad Vladikoff (Mendel Weintraub ’21) steal the clover, dropping it in a giant field. Horton searches in vain for the Whos but is unsuccessful. He then meets Mayzie La Bird, who has laid an egg she does not want. After complaining that she has been sitting on the egg for days and needs a vacation, she asks Horton to sit on it for her for an afternoon, and he obliges.
Horton is captured by hunters, who auction him off to the Circus McGurkus. As he sits on the egg penned in a cage, he is visited by Mayzie La Bird. She tells him to keep the egg, and although he is worried that he cannot properly parent the future creature he vows to try his best, saying “An elephant’s word is 100 percent.” Gertrude McFuzz rescues him and, having finally gotten his attention, professes her love and gives him the clover. Gertrude’s song “For You” captured her infatuation with Horton but also encompassed a key theme in the show — being grateful for what you have. Gertrude was ashamed of her one-feather tail, but when she got a more voluptuous one, she realized that it hindered her actions and she became grateful for her natural self.
The Sour Kangaroo and the Wickersham Brothers capture Horton and bring him and the clover to trial. The citizens of the Jungle of Nool try to convince the Judge (Ben Steinberg ’18) of Horton’s insanity, chanting “boil it” (referring to the clover). The Whos rally together and try to be heard but are unsuccessful. Then, Jojo comes up with a new “think” which allows the Whos to be heard and saved from an untimely demise. The Whos’ rallying cry and the trial covered two other important themes — accepting those who are different, and “a person’s a person no matter how small.” Jojo was previously shunned for having abnormal “thinks,” but the Whos realized that his imagination was important for their planet and not a nuisance. The other animals in the Jungle of Nool did not believe in the Whos and thought that Horton was insane, but after hearing the Whos’ cry they realized that even though they could not see the Whos, they were still people.
The actors were extremely energetic, and at points they didn’t even seem like they were running on little to no sleep. The cast showed signs of strain at times, with many notes falling flat and some out-of-sync choreography, but that’s expected since they’d barely slept.
The stage crew made a beautifully painted and well-constructed set, and the costumes were very creative. Both complemented the plot and created a psychedelic and eclectic ambience to further make the play an enjoyable experience for the audience.