A NEW British adaptation of The Cat in the Hat looks as if the classic Dr. Seuss reader has happily fallen open onstage like some pop-up book.
The Katie Mitchell version given its Canadian première by the Children’s Theatre Company of Minneapolis at the Manitoba Theatre for Young People features not only Seuss’s words but his iconic cartoon-like drawings brought to brilliant 3D life.
The look of Dr. Seuss’ The Cat in the Hat will be very familiar to any child who has read it or followed the action as it was read to them — and as any parent knows about kids, familiarity breeds content.
Everyone knows the story, published by Seuss in 1957, about a bored brother (Douglas Neithercott) and sister (Elaine Patterson) stuck inside their house one rainy day with nothing to do, before trouble arrives in the form of a fun-loving feline by the name Cat in the Hat (Jim Lichtscheidl) and his partners in mayhem, Thing 1 (Gabby Zonneveld) and Thing 2 (Noah Crandell).
Set and prop design adapter Samantha Johns painstakingly recreates each scene in the book with exactly the same colour palette of red and teal, black and white. To enhance the feeling of live illustrations on stage, the boy has squiggly lines on his white sweater, the door features pencil shading and a large sign that reads "bump" drops from above the stage to signal the appearance of the cat in his candystriped stovepipe hat, oversized bowtie and white gloves.
The visual fidelity to the book makes it that much easier for Cat lovers to fall in love again with the matchless rhymes and subversive humour.
The Cat in the Hat can be read in about five minutes, so the high-energy, 45-minute stage experience, targeted at three- to 11-year-olds, stretches out the action. The opening scene finds the kids moping around the house, sighing at the downpour outside and so desperate to amuse themselves that a chair squeak helps pass the time. The adult audience is almost as happy to see the Cat walk in as the unnamed boy and his sister, Sally.
Then the chaos starts as he rides a bicycle around the living room, bats a ball around, breaking glass, and generally trashes the place, much to the amazement of the stunned kids and to the chagrin of the talking fish (Jason Ballweber), a general party pooper and stand-in for their mother, who is out.
Things really get out of hand when the cat releases from their box Thing 1 and Thing 2, hellions sporting blue hair and tongues.
The adult cast proves very capable, especially Lichtscheidl as the anarchic cat and Ballweber, the director who spends most of the show grim-faced with his hand up the rear of a fish puppet.
The kids at a recent school performance went wild when the cat-mobile drove on stage with its multiple arms to speed up the inevitable cleanup.
It ends with the cheering audience being questioned as to whether the assembled eight-year-olds would tell their mothers about the cat-astrophe.
Most said they would keep it a secret, although one little girl voice from the back piped up with, "I tell my parents everything." That drew a round of groans from the boys nearby.