Here’s another spectacular Lynn Ahrens/Stephen Flaherty score. Is there anything this duo can’t do?
What most amazes me about the score to Seussical is how dead-on Seuss it is. Musically, it feels right, like the music you might have heard in your head as you were reading the Seuss books as a child, but at the same time, it’s fresh and fun. Lyrically, Ahrens takes on the gargantuan task of recreating Seuss, competing with his clever and witty plays on words and rhymes. However, from start to finish, in the hands of the very talented Ahrens and Flaherty, Seussical feels like it was blown off the pages of the books and onto the stage.
One thing I love about Seussical is that, like all great shows and movies geared toward family audiences, it rises above whatever intentions reviewers and audiences have for it. When I saw the tour, yeah, I could tell the producers had been trying to vie for the family dollar, but nobody in that audience could have enjoyed themselves more than I did.
Part of why that is is represented in the song “All Alone in the Universe.” When people set out to make a kids’ show (or a kids’ movie), it often ends up with a very typical kids’ theme—it’s okay to be different, everyone is special, believe in yourself. Seussical, however, goes beyond that, celebrating more adult ideas, such as strength in adversity, rejoicing in creativity, and standing for right in a world full of wrong. Because of that, I think any one could walk away from Seussical inspired to be a better person.
I love what the song has to say, about being alone in the universe, the only one to see and understand something new (or being the only one to stand up for what is right). We don’t have enough of that in our world because most people lack the vision to be trendsetters and instead become trendfollowers. Yes, I agree Horton, that “At one time or other, / Great thinkers all feel this way,” all alone in the universe. And that’s what makes them great thinkers. That’s a powerful experience, to feel alone in the universe, and a powerful response, to hold fast to your convictions.
As you can tell, I want the courage to be Horton.
The melody accompanying those beautiful lyrics works to create the sense of aloneness and wonder, accentuated in the orchestrations by the singular, simple plunking of piano keys behind Horton’s and JoJo’s solo choruses. Then, when they duet, they harmonize so beautifully, just as their experiences of being “all alone in the universe” harmonize. The song then ends in a beautiful counterpoint, perhaps foreshadowing the differing experiences in aloneness that both characters will have, knowing that they do have someone out there who does believe in them, though they will feel alone in the universe.
Other great songs in the show (and songs I often find myself singing) are the equally moving “Solla Sollew,” “It’s Possible (McElligot’s Pool),” and “Notice Me, Horton,” though they only scratch the surface in a score bubbling with wonderful.
the Broadway Mouth
July 16, 2008