By John Farrell, Theater Columnist
Encore Entertainers most recently embraced Warner Grand Theatre with open arms Jan. 18 through 20, with the production of Seussical the Musical.
The production filled the downtown San Pedro streets with hundreds of families who came to see their children perform a full-scale production in a great theater. You’ve got to wish there were more companies like this one to fill the Warner.
This time around there was a secret in the production directed by Summer Dey Cacciagioni. The prior time Encore Entertainers produced a musical at the Warner Theatre Cacciagioni was in the last stages of pregnancy. This time around her new baby daughter, Lucy Rose, was one of the cast, the baby Horton the Elephant (David Mitrano) hatches after sitting on an egg for most of the production’s second act.
Lucy Rose wins the award for the youngest performer in the 48-person cast named cast (there are many others in minor roles), but not by that much. Calliope Rondeau, with a big name and already a veteran, is just three and probably doesn’t expect to be mentioned in this review. Alora Rose Cacciagioni, another daughter, is just four and she has been in 17 productions.
That’s the Encore formula. And you’d expect a lot less from them than they regularly have produced: big, professional musicals with effective sets and costumes, great choreography (thanks to choreographer Jennifer DiBenedetto) and a big and well-rehearsed cast.
Seussical needs a big cast. It takes several of Dr. Seuss’ best-known books, including The Cat in the Hat and Horton Hears a Who, and combines them into a song-filled romp that was a hit on Broadway and has been done professionally around the country.
Tyler O’Bryan is master of ceremonies as The Cat in the Hat, the trickster who starts the fun, and there are many others, literally too many to mention them all. The production was smooth and effective, with the exception of a few youngsters who had to be moved into position by older members of the cast.
This time around there were serious problems with lighting, which often didn’t come up until performers were already halfway through their numbers, and the usual glitches in body mikes. (One came off in the final number and young Jojo, played by Helena Glickiere, had enough stage presence to use it in her final dance.) There was also a problem with diction: many lines were hard to understand: that may also have been due to the mikes.
Whatever the problems, the audience that nearly filled the Warner for the performance loved every minute of it, knew their friends in the cast and were vocally enthusiastic. It’s nice to see such enthusiasm.