Children's Theatre Company is presenting the U.S. premiere of "Dr. Seuss' Cat in the Hat," a play that remains true to the classic tale by Dr. Seuss. Originally produced by the National Theatre of Great Britain, the script is simply the text of the book, with lots of physical embellishments.
Reviewers of this show, aimed at very young theater goers, deemed it wild, delicious, splendid... and miscast.
The cast of Cat in the Hat at Children's Theatre Company in Minneapolis
Photo by Dan Norman
The adaptation, crafted by Katie Mitchell, uses the situations from the book -- and Seuss's original verses -- for the framework. The rest is Seuss-inspired madness, with sets and costumes seemingly pulled right from the book's illustrations.
The actors are up to the madness, starting with Elise Langer and Douglas Neithercott as the Girl and Boy destined to have a wild, wild afternoon. They carry the piece in the first few minutes, wringing delicious moments out of the heightened sense of boredom. Anything can be an irritant in this frame of mind -- such as a squeaky chair.
Elise Langer as Girl and Douglas Neithercott as Boy in Cat in the Hat at Children's Theatre Company
Photo by Dan Norman
The action, delivered with broad and small gestures by a jumping, running, leaping six-member ensemble, gives Ballweber's production a lot of zest. And the cast is, to a person, splendid, even if some are a little on the older side.
As the title character with painted-on whiskers and a black spot on his nose, Dean Holt bears the featherweight of "Cat." He pedals across the stage and jumps with flair and gusto, working up a lather. He is physically very expressive and always ready to pounce.
Cat in the Hat, which runs through December 2 at Children's Theatre Company, remains true to the book by Dr. Seuss, with no added dialogue.
Photo by Dan Norman
Director Jason Ballweber chose the right guy for the Cat. Veteran CTC actor Dean Holt conveys the goofy, devil-may-care attitude of the naughty, fun-loving feline with gleeful expressions and childlike athleticism.
Ballweber's decision to cast middle-aged adults as the two young children is more problematic. Although the adult actors are fine at extreme mugging, they lack a child's je ne sais quoi, and it's impossible to mistake them for kids. They feel wrong in the roles. Given all of the fine young actors who have graced the stages of the CTC, it's a puzzle why adults were cast -- especially since this is not a long play requiring difficult memorization.
Dean Holt is the Cat in the Hat
Photo by Dan Norman
As a reviewer I can harrumph and belch cynically as much as I choose, but with CTC the question is always: did the kids like it? The answer: yes, they did. They laughed and fell all over themselves. They will certainly have a good time at The Cat In The Hat. Parents will have to make their separate peace with the overly familiar material - and with the high ticket prices. As always, my advice is: let Grandma and Grandpa take the kids to CTC while you crack open that long-hoarded bottle of vino.
Have you seen CTC's production of Cat in the Hat? What's your review?
Locked out musicians of the Minnesota Orchestra, Ellen Smith, Doug Wright, Tony Ross, and Burt Hara, standing in front of the Minneapolis Convention Center (MPR photo/Euan Kerr)
"The players want to keep the music going, and we are doing everything we can to make that happen," said locked out musician Tony Ross.
Ross, principal cello for the Minnesota Orchestra was standing in front of the Minneapolis Convention Center where the Orchestra was meant to open its 2012-2013 season. But that was before management locked out the musicians Monday, and cancelled the fall concerts through November 25th
Ross, along with musicians Tim Zavadil, Ellen Smith, Doug Wright, and Burt Hara, were there to announce their intention of holding a season opener anyway. There are still some logistics to work out, like dates, program, and which hall, but Ross said they are hoping to present a "celebratory program" on October 19th ideally in the Convention Center Theater.
Ross said there could be a series of concerts.
"We are also in discussion with former music directors" he said, "Hoping they will support us and possibly lead us in this and other events."
He declined to name who that might be for the moment. However he did say the musicians will pay for the concerts, with the help of donations from supporters.
Ross said the hope would be also to honor tickets which people had bought for the cancelled season opener.
When asked what might be an ideal piece for the show, Ross smiled wryly
"Shostakovich 5?" he said "You know there was so much great art that came out of Russia when Stalin was abusing its population. Do we feel abused? Maybe."
Over the past few days more and more people have become aware of the large cuts being proposed for musicians by Minnesota orchestra management. Those cuts are necessary management says because of the organizations teetering financial situation.
The players dispute this, particularly as the Orchestra just raised almost $100-million in a capital campaign.
The musicians are well-paid, and when a journalist asked Ross how they justified their salaries, Ross shot back.
"Many people equate making it into the Minnesota Orchestra, or a like ensemble, more difficult than making it onto an NFL team," he said. "So we are not ashamed of our salary, and we need to be compitative so we can keep the great musicians that we have here, and draw new ones."
Over at the Minnesota Orchestra's temporary offices where administrative staff is working while Orchestra Hall is undergoing renovation, Orchestra President and CEO Michael Henson said he respected the musicians' right to play concerts.
"However it doesn't change the fundamental issue that the Minnesota Orchestra is facing at the moment," he continued. "We need our players to accept the financial realities of 2012, and come to the negotiating table in support of a contract that our community can afford."
No negotiations are currently scheduled between the two sides.
When asked about the musicians honoring tickets for cancelled concerts, Henson said people remember they still have value for when there is a settlement and the Minnesota orchestra resumes playing.
"We are very keen that our audience is not confused by that," Henson said. "And keen to very much stress that they can get a full refund for tickets they have purchased, or... they can bank those tickets."