Review: The Cat in the Hat

The cast of The Cat in the Hat                                                                         Photo by K. Talley Photography

By Larry Laneer
January 27, 2020

You never can tell what you’ll get when you go to the theater. What may look good on paper can flop onstage. A case in point is Lyric Theatre’s The Cat in the Hat, adapted from the popular children’s book by Dr. Seuss and now at the Plaza. It would seem you couldn’t go wrong with Dr. Seuss, but under certain circumstances, you can. This show is a surprising disappointment, considering the tremendous success Lyric had last season with the children-oriented Curious George: The Golden Meatball.

The problem is although it’s fun for young readers to read, The Cat in the Hat does not cut it as material for the stage. The thin storyline doesn’t come to much of a point, unless it’s “pick up your playthings.” And at the end of this production, the cast raises doubts in the minds of children about whether they should withhold important information from parents.

Speaking of parents, most of them around me at the reviewed performance sat mainly stone- faced. A man who looked as if he could be someone’s great-grandfather slept through most of the show. The production runs just under 45 minutes, and I didn’t see much restlessness, but who knows what would have happened if it lasted much longer.

Katie Mitchell did the stage adaption, which was produced originally by the National Theatre of Great Britain. Lyric is doing the show as a co-production with Adventure Theatre in Washington, D.C., where it was designed and originated. Scenic designer Matthew Buttrey and lighting designer Alberto Segarra (with assistance from Fabian J. Garcia, a Lyric regular) have given the production a colorful look that recreates Dr. Seuss’s style down to some detail. Sound designer Evan Cook (with assistance from Bryson Ezell, another Lyric regular) makes sound effects ranging from realistic to cartoonish. Notice the splash when the fish dives back into her bowl. Danielle Preston’s costumes blend in with the rest of the design.

Oddly, the production employs a recorded score that seems to include no original music. The music is incidental; this is not a musical, although it includes a little dancing. Some of the music is so familiar it seems out of place here, Henry Mancini’s Pink Panther theme and the “Final Jeopardy” music from television’s Jeopardy, for example You even hear a few bars of the ominous minor second from Jaws.

Directed by Adam Immerwahr, the youthful cast presses on gamely acting and manipulating puppets. Josiah Brooks plays the eponymous cat in the hat. Eli Bradley plays Boy and Kalyn Glover is his sister, Sally. As Fish, Lexi Windsor brings some experience and solidity to the cast. Operating puppets, Katelyn Curtain plays Thing 1/Kitten 1, and at the reviewed performance, Jonah White was Thing 2/Kitten 2 (Kaleb Michael Bruza usually plays these roles). Regular listeners to NPR’s All Things Considered will recognize the recorded voice of Ari Shapiro as the Narrator.

Be sure to stay afterward for questions and answers. Cast members introduce themselves and tell their colleges and hometowns and take questions from the audience. One youth asked how long they rehearsed the show (five hours per rehearsal for two weeks). A lad asked how they “make the lights go on and off real fast,” which let the cast explain the strobe effect and introduce the light crew seated behind and above the audience. A girl asked if Thing 1 and Thing 2 are boys or girls (Thing 1, a boy; Thing 2, a girl). Another girl asked about the “sticks” she could see onstage. A cast member explained sheepishly the sticks are used to manipulate “rod puppets” and are painted a color to camouflage them, so they blend in with the scenery. It didn’t work for at least one viewer. Alas, just like much of the show.

The Cat in the Hat by Dr. Seuss, adapted by Katie Mitchell
Lyric Theatre of Oklahoma
10:00 a.m. Thursdays, 10:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m. Fridays, 11:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. Saturdays, 1:00 p.m. and 4:00 p.m. Sundays, through February 9
Plaza Theatre
1725 NW 16th St.
405-524-9312

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