To cast Seussical’s transformation from Broadway megaflop to children’s-theater minor hit as a restoration of the musical's reputation, as the Times' Campbell Robertson did recently, feels a bit of a stretch. For whereas the original production was an anarchic mess with Liberace’s wardrobe and a series of showstopping numbers with no show to stop, Theaterworks/USA’s downsized revamp is so well behaved that you suddenly miss all that chastised ambition.
But "better safe than sorry" seems to be the motto in the new version now playing at the Lucille Lortel. Compare six troubled months on Broadway with easily over 750 regional and high-school productions since 2005 and you’ll get an idea as to how much thinking small has paid off big for the show's writers, Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty. But watching the high-school-theater-quality performances in Theaterworks/USA's production didn't provoke in us the same response as it did in the Times' Charles Isherwood, who claimed in Friday's review that "Seussical has been liberated at last." To us, it just seemed a shame that a once-brash show had retreated into comfortable cuteness. —Drew Pisarra