As luck would have it, opening day of Childsplay’s production of Dr. Suess’s The Cat in the Hat was wet and rainy, just like the setting of the book. In anticipation of the performance, my family, including my twin boys (7) and my youngest son (4), read the book together a couple of times to get the language and action familiar. After all, Dr. Suess’s Cat also said, “The more that you read, the more things you will know.” Our preparation just added to the show’s fun, as live theatre always has room for surprises and interpretation makes space for some hilarious antics.
We arrived early try the 360° Experience. My boys had fun with the cute photo booth and the poetry wall, where we could create our own poetry with the 236 words Dr. Suess used write The Cat in the Hat. We played and took in the view from the venue until the chime called us to our seats.
The play opens with Nick (Drew Swaine), Sally (Shannon Phelps) and the Fish (Kate Haas) gloomily sitting in the house. All three are stuck, wishing to be out and perhaps even unsure of what to do without the mother there to entertain them. It was just the picture of the book’s first page—the house, the boy and girl in window, the bird in the tree, and the drenching rain. Then the gloom was broken when the drenched bird had a fit of sneezes that started my boys laughing.
Soon, a “BUMP!” ushers in the Cat in the Hat, himself, played by the hilarious Jon Gentry. Their inert world—the bicycle, the racquet, the balls, and even their pet fish—are set in motion. With a push from The Cat, Nick and Sally join in some imaginative and increasingly wild play that the mother most certainly would mind…but she is out of the house for the day. So, without ever leaving the house, they play ball, perform with pretend instruments in a loud musical trio, and then The Cat uses Nick’s bicycle to boldly perform tricks.
At this point, my 4-year-old leaned over and whispered, “What is The Fish going to say?” The Fish is a voice of reason, warning the children that this kind of playtime could end badly. But the children (and ourselves in audience) are captivated by The Cat.
One of our favorite parts is when the Cat’s daring balancing act ends in a crash and everything falls in slow motion. My boys laughed and cringed as they watched the clever, weaving motion of objects and actors. Near the end of the scene, I found myself leaned over sideways; I had been so absorbed in the action, I had moved as if to dodge falling objects. After the show, my boys’ first wondering words were about how that slow motion was done. It was so expert, they thought it was movie magic.
Then the Cat introduces a big, red box, which produces the
wildly playful Thing 1 (Alan Khoutakoun) and Thing 2 (Jenny Hintze). The heart-pounding energy of the actors was such funny fun, we enjoyed most of the process of creating such an enormous mess. The Fish finally convinces our boy and girl that it is time to bring in the big net and call back the wildness before the mother—and consequence—return.
My twins’ favorite characters were Thing 1 and Thing 2, and my youngest loved The Cat in the Hat. It is fitting that they chose characters that represent their preferred free and creative style of play. They wouldn’t use these words, but I could tell they understood that as the imagination gets audacious and funny, things also can become increasingly disorderly. The resolution from the contrite Cat made even clean up look like cooperative fun. Next time my kids’ play results in toy-room chaos, maybe I can be like The Cat, but offer a non-mechanical hand with clean-up.
Director David Barker led a highly-successful production based on the popular stage and travelling show from two years ago. He praised the cast for taking the acclaimed show and being ready for audiences in just 2 weeks of rehearsal. We saw some of these actors in other shows and we were excited to see their work again. Actors we recognized were fully transformed into their new roles, and each member of the ensemble was strong and engaging.
Artistic Director Dwayne Hartford has overseen a delightful season so far with a vision and productions that represent the great reputation of Childsplay Theatre. Costumes by D. Daniel Hollingshead and props by Jim Luther were full of imagination and artfully
referenced the book.
Childsplay’s talented company—behind the scenes and on stage—accomplished a faithful adaptation that our whole family enjoyed. I think this production would make a great introduction to live theatre for many ages, including very young children. We laughed out loud for much of the show’s 45 minute run and could only wish for more. My boys saw the ending approach, but they were not yet ready for the entertainment to stop.
The Cat in the Hat was so engrossing that we feel we played along. The high energy of the cast was remarkable, and finding them sweating and catching their breath at the cast meet & greet was evidence that they left nothing behind. Before we were buckled into our car for the ride home, my youngest asked when we can see the play, again. This is high praise, and I think it is deserved.
By Family2Family Blogger Jodee
My family was provided tickets in return for an honest review. I genuinely thank them for their kindness and opportunity to state my true opinion and enthusiasm for the entire production.