Dr. Seuss: footloose and obtuse

The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T

Directed by Roy Rowland

(Tommy Rettig, Hans Conried, Peter Lind Hayes, Mary Healy)

G

 

The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T is NOT a pornographic sequel to a Robert Altman film. So get your mind out of the gutter. No, Dr. T was penned for the screen by a man who now resides as God’s personal poet laureate – Dr. Suess.

Without the nudity, bad plot and, most importantly, Robert Altman, we find this movie about an entirely different Dr. T is a mere children’s musical.

Lost in a god-awful daydream-nightmare (daymare?), Bart Collins (Tommy Rettig), sporting a curious resemblance to The Beav, must stop the scathing Dr. Terwilliker (Hans Conried), his piano teacher and, methinks, part-time communist, from opening his formidable institution where he plans to make children practice the ivories for 24 hours a day, and rape them of their very childhood. He also makes them wear a Happy Fingers beanie topped with a bobbing rubber hand. The nerve. As the semblance of every person’s lost childhood, Bart, with his curious fun-filled innocence, is armed with an imagination that only 10-year-old boys possess.

Bart sequesters a sidekick in the childish plumber August Zabbladowski (Peter Lind Hayes). They sing, dance and scheme past the evil Dr. T.

The daydream narrative opens to endless possibilities, and I patiently waited for The Cat in the Hat to come bounding out to deliver green eggs and ham to Sam I Am with red and blue fish flopping at his feet. But this was not to be.

Rather, Dr. T conservatively squeezes the creative juice from the mind of the Seuss.

But there’s plenty of scenery and choreography worth keeping your eye on. Terwilliker’s institution takes on a polished design from ’20s German expressionist cinema.

The disappointing lack of Suessisms in the dialogue is like waking up Christmas morning to find one small, poorly-wrapped gift beneath the tree. Reserved for the singing and dancing, Suess’ ridiculous rhythmics and jibber-jabber become the dog and pony show of this musical.

-Michael Goller

 

The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T shows at the Walker Art Center this Thursday at 8 p.m. for free.