October 8, 2019 by Roy Harris
South Shore acting star Michael Warner—playing “Seussical the Musical’s” Cat in the Hat—will lead audiences through a fantasy world when the popular Broadway show opens its two-weekend run Oct. 19 and 20 at Hingham Town Hall. And they couldn’t be in better paws.
“It’s a role I’ve always wanted to do,” says Warner, who hails from Weymouth, and works as a server at Hingham’s Scarlet Oak Tavern, along with his busy community-theater activities. “It’s basically a chance to run around the stage and act goofy—which my wife will tell you is the perfect role for me.”
In a way, Warner is also rehearsing to be a real-life dad, as he and wife Nicole get ready for their first child in January. For now, though, he’s eager to play the Cat for his nieces and nephews, who have previously seen their uncle in such roles as the chimney sweep Bert in “Mary Poppins.” (Other favorite roles have been heavier, like Jean Valjean in “Les Miserables,” George Bailey in “It’s a Wonderful Life,” and, most recently, Robert Kincaid in “The Bridges of Madison County.”)
But while Warner will certainly get involved with some Seuss-ian silliness, the Cat actually is responsible for interacting cleverly with the dozens of zany characters created by Springfield, Mass.-native children’s author Theodor Seuss Geisel. In fact, the Cat serves as the musical’s delightful glue as scenes shift from weird lands like the Jungle of Nool and the Planet of Who. “It’s unlike anything I have ever done,” Warner says, doing “these little bits here and there: here a doctor, there a talk-show host, a piano player, Jose the pool boy, a newscaster—all with very distinct voices to them.” The various figures he inhabits “are all really funny, which makes it so much fun to do.”
In the process, Warner knows he is helping expand the nature of this production beyond pure child’s play, into “a show for all ages, where even the adults will recognize these characters.” And there are certainly grown-up lessons to learn; think the famous conclusion from Horton the Elephant (played here by Quincy’s Justin Grankewicz) that “a person’s a person no matter how small.” Or the declaration made in the opening scene, which is Warner’s favorite because “it’s a great dance number, to a classic Seuss reference: Oh the thinks you can think”—when you think about Seuss.
Grankewicz is appearing on the Hingham Civic stage for the first time in a decade. But other cast members with more recent Hingham credits include Carole Shannon (Mayzie La Bird), Salem’s Bruno Barbuto (the Grinch), Whitman’s Athan Mantalos (Yertle the Turtle) and Cohasset’s Paul Antico and Wareham’s Jean Lyon (Mr. Mayor and Mrs. Mayor.)
From Brockton, Jessica DePalo plays Gertrude McFuzz and Marcus Myers plays Jojo, with Boston’s Jack Ferdman as General Genghis Kahn Schmitz, Bridgewater’s Katia Greene as Sour Kangaroo, Plymouth’s Natalia Tsourides as Young Kangaroo, Scituate’s Ella Botogowski as Vlad Vladicoff, and Ricky Desisto and Evan Cole as Wickersham brothers.
Hingham residents in the cast include Sydney Steele and Oisin Rowan (the Cat’s sidekicks, Thing One and Thing Two) and children’s ensemble members Angela Kennedy, Maeve Murphy, Lilly Weymouth and Riley and Grace Byrne. Scituate’s Abby Tondorf and Lily Grazioso are in the adult ensemble, with Bird Girls being played by Brighton’s Audrey Clark, Needham’s Anne Martland and Abington’s Morgan Campbell.
“Seussical’s” director is Brockton’s Victoria Kirichok-Pratt, whose first Hingham Civic Music directorial job was 2003’s “Damn Yankees.” Jose Merlo is directing the music—a challenging score with music by Stephen Flaherty and lyrics by Lynn Ahrens, whose other Broadway collaborations include “Ragtime.” Choreography is by Hingham’s Liz Tronni, with the elaborate costumes by Kathryn Ridder. The show’s producer is Pat Sherman.
After its opening shows—at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 19 and a 2 p.m. matinee on Sunday, Oct. 20--“Seussical” will continue for a second Saturday and Sunday, Oct. 26 and 27 at the same times. It is being performed at Sanborn Auditorium, on Hingham Town Hall’s second floor, at 210 Central St. Tickets are $25 for adults and $20 for seniors and students. Children under 12, accompanied by an adult, are $15. Tickets may be purchased by calling 781-749-3400, or by visiting the website.
Roy Harris, a journalist who lives in the World’s End area of Hingham, has appeared in numerous Hingham Civic Music Theatre shows since 2003.