Seussical is a spectacular musical for kids, which is based on the books of Dr. Seuss. The plots of several stories intricately intertwine in order to create a totally unprecedented magical world full of fantastic creatures and breathtaking adventures of the Cat, Horton the Elephant, and his small friend Jojo.
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The reception of the performance is largely affected by two design constituents making up the visual semiotics of the play: set design and costumes. These components create a unique theatrical space which helps understand the themes, the mood, and the emotional message of the play.
The scenery is surprisingly simplified for the play which addresses kids as a target audience. We can see a large black and white drawing depicting something resembling the jungle in the foreground and a small town with surrealistic houses, plants, and mountains in the background. The drawing is placed in the middle of the stage so there is just an empty space with no other settings on each side of it. In the course of the performance there appear some moveable parts (e.g. a tree with a nest) that are created using the same technique. These frugal settings help the play a great deal as they do not distract attention from the main characters and events.
If we try to estimate how helpful this kind of scenery is to the performers, it will be fair to note that it does not actually assist them in their acting. There is no furniture to sit on and there are practically no props that you can take in hands to interact with. However, neither can we claim that such settings hinder the actors – the scenery is far from being overbearing and does not require any specific skills to deal with. It exists as independently as possible.
Even so, the settings still contribute to the mood and the style of the production. Their surrealism helps create the atmosphere of an unknown planet, which is, nevertheless, similar to ours. Besides, it aligns with the absurdity of the plot and complements the gaudy costumes.
These curvy shapes as well as the absence of color are symbolic. The idea is proved by the conversation of Jojo and Horton, in which the former says “I dream in bright colors”, and the latter answers “Me too!” (Seussical The Musical, 2016). Thus, we can conclude that the main intention of the director was to show that the inner world of the two protagonists is more vivid and colorful than all those things that surround them. They are both dreamers for whom fantasies are more real than reality itself.
The overall design is aesthetically pleasing but not in the traditional sense of it. There is nothing to admire in the settings but there is nothing repulsive either. No element leaps to the eye and none of them are out of place.
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As far as the costumes are concerned, the choice of them is perfect for both the play and its recurrent theme. Kids are attracted by brightness and beauty. That is why stories for them are usually staged in vibrant colors. Here we also deal with sharp contrasts that help understand who is the real victim and who is the villain. The historical period is not specified, which would be redundant for a fairy-tale.
The costumes meet the major requirement they should meet: they help actors express the individuality of their characters. For instance, even the Whos all dressed in yellow are depicted as those who able to become someone else’s “sun”, no matter how small and insignificant they may seem.
The design of the costumes is neither good nor bad. On the one hand, it does not show any extravagance or particular originality. There is nothing unusual and memorable about it. On the other hand, it is good that costumes do not exaggerate the features that each character must have in order to be recognizable: you can identify an elephant even though he does not have huge ears or a trunk. The Cat does not have any specific traits of a cat either. It means that the main emphasis is still on what the actors say and do, not on what they wear. The choice of bright colors compensates for the absence of colors in the settings and attracts the audience’s attention to the participants of the events.
Major and minor characters are very different in their costume styles: the latter often have identical costumes (e.g. monkey, Whos, etc.), whereas the former are all unique. The good and the bad are contrasted too. Horton, Gertrude and the other good ones are dressed in calm pastel shades: gray, blue, light yellow, etc. Those who are on the evil side prefer striking, extravagant colors (Mayzie’s sparkling red dress is the best example). The Cat and Jojo, who are the narrators of the story, are dressed in striped clothes, which makes them stand apart from everyone else. It allows us to assume that the director wanted to emphasize the significance of the inner beauty over the outer glamor.
“Seussical the Musical (Full Show).” YouTube, uploaded by BigelliElli. 2016. Web.