EVER stop to consider how lucky we are to have the chance to be entertained in this town?
Not just entertained but knocked off your seats for two hours and leaving the theatre singing and smiling and too excited to sleep?
Ever stopped to consider how amazingly often that happens when its locals who are enthralling you, capturing a couple of hours for you in another world, another time?
Tamworth Musical Society – a bunch of locals who love to sing and dance and act and play instruments and layer light and sound on the stage – are at it again.
Last Friday night, they opened the world of Seussical The Musical, a wonderful escape into imagination.
Based on the Dr Seuss story about an elephant, Horton (Chris Langston), who is constantly the butt of the jungle creatures jokes until he discovers another planet existing on a speck of dust – and is then subject to even more ridicule and bullying.
He teams up with Jo-Jo (Lanna Collins), a boy with a big imagination from the planet Who and every bit as much an outsider, in order that they can save Jo-Jo’s planet, despite being the laughing stock of their respective communities.
Before they meet, they believe they are alone in the universe.
Along the way, one of childrens literature’s most famous characters, the Cat in the Hat (Sean McInnes) weaves the story together with a manic intensity and that naughty sense of fun which is just beneath the surface in all of us.
It’s a story which uses fantasy to say a lot about the human condition; about how we form relationships and how we make value judgments based on shallow assumption.
Above all, it’s a story about the triumph of faith and courage and principle.
Along the way, there are familiar characters from many of the 46 books Dr Seuss wrote.
It’s rare when source material can span so many generations.
As Horton first appeared in print in 1940, children, their parents and their grandparents have all had their turn at being children and enjoying the glorious drawings and the deliciously rhyming text of the good doctor.
McInnes is a tour de force of improvisation in the many characters the Cat cheekily portrays as he imposes his serial pestiness on cast and even the audience.
His energy is infectious and he very cleverly engages the audience, bringing them closer to the edge of the stage, within touching distance of the story.
It’s his scenes with the youngster Collins which are the best.
What a delight is the 10-year- old.
Her confidence, strong singing and characterisation of Jo-o is remarkable, but since when did year olds have such comic timing and poise under the spotlights?
Tahnee Denton further enhances her reputation as a comic performer as the love struck Gertrude McFuzz, so in love with Horton she’ll do anything to have him notice her.
Lara Northey and Ben Mettam pull off great comic turns in nailing characters which light the stage and it’s doubtful anyone has a bigger voice than Katt Noland as the soul sister, sarcastic Sour Kangaroo.
However, it is Horton who wins your heart and in creating him, Chris Langston has again delivered another wonderful character to the TMS stage.
His gentle abstractedness and acceptance of the consequences of his devotion to seemingly lost causes are at times just shown in his face but could not have been more convincing.
His singing, as with all his characters, is so engaging and so attuned to the soul of who he is at that moment that you ache for Horton.
In the pit, Jacquie Frazer’s direction of the orchestra and Sam Langston’s arrangements allow a wonderful group of musicians to really fly.
Seussical requires a lot of them, not only musically, but rapid sound effects which need perfect timing.
As a group, they continue a long tradition of outstanding musicianship and enhance that reputation.
It certainly helps that this show has several really memorable tunes that find a spot in your head and break out as smiles and tears.
Lighting, costumes and sound make Seussical burst from the stage with such technical brilliance that you don’t notice them and provide a space for Anika Chillingworth’s clever choreography to fill.
Her gift is to develop colour and movement which augment the narrative, not interrupt it.
I could name everyone in the cast, for I’m not sure there is a top and bottom: Ros and Mark Gower for instance, for years loyal ensemble members, come into their own spotlights as the mayor and his wife with such reliability and comic timing.
Hardly surprising no couple in Tamworth love the theatre more.
Biggest plaudits surely for Geraldine Palmer, a seasoned actor but first time director here, who has done a splendid job from clever casting to opening night, riding the highs and lows of crashing waves breaking over a developing production and steering the showboat to the final, glorious sail up the harbour.
Sitting behind me on opening night, I could feel her smile beaming through the back of my head.
Parents, you should take your children to this show, but even if you don’t have kids, the journey back to childhood will be seamless, wonderful and a reminder of the unrestrained hope that was each day of being a child.
Who wouldn’t want to taste that again?
The only disappointment will be when the lights come up, but then, as you leave the theatre, singing and smiling and too excited to sleep, stop to consider how amazing it was that your neighbours took you on this journey.
Seussical The Musical runs until May 24.
Tickets from the Capitol Theatre www.capitoltheatretamworth.com.au or the Tamworth Information Centre.