Look, I didn’t like this show, but your results may vary. More to the point, this show isn’t about you. It’s about that solemn-faced munchkin with the big eyes sitting next to you, tugging on your sleeve and whispering, “Daddy, that kitty can talk.” The munchkins seem to have a good time.
Puss ‘n Boots is a 315-year-old story in which this happens: a miller experiencing a mid-life crisis (Ryan Mitchell) decides to bestow his farm and mill on his two older sons. He sends his third son, young Jemston (Tony Strowd), out into the world armed with nothing but his good looks and the barn cat (Jessica Seminerio), who has a complicated name but who is commonly known as “Puss”. Puss, sly and manic, immediately conceives a scheme to put her master in the chips; it involves getting magic boots, which turn Puss into a dancing machine, and passing Jemston off as a Marquis so that he can impress the depressed King of Coolamaloo (Mitchell) and win the heart of his coquettish daughter (Becky Day). Puss falls in with Dippy Dilly Duck (Day) and Razzmattaz Rabbit (Kelsey Meiklejohn) and the three of them put on a mad dancing exhibition, which melts His Majesty’s sad, sad heart. Soon Jemston and the Princess are ooing and aahing each other, and we are set for the standard happy ending. One problem, though: a Marquis generally lives in a castle, and Jemston is a homeless guy. No problem for Puss. She simply invades the home of the local magician (Meikeljohn) and tricks her into turning herself into a mouse; with the magician out of the way Puss turns the house over to the “Marquis”. (In the fairy tale, there is the predictable consequence for the magician, but in the adaptation the mouse lives on as one of the regular annoyances of home ownership.)
All right. Little conflict, not much character development or story arc – and, to the extent there is a moral, it seems to be that the path to happiness is through fraud and theft. But be cool; these issues matter little to the kiddies, most of whom have not yet reached the age of reason. At the show I attended, they seemed to be entranced. Perhaps they were looking at Evengia Salazar’s excellent costumes; or Jan Forbes’ simple, sturdy set (the characters literally come out of a book), or the fine uncredited sound design, which features swing music for the characters’ jazz steps.
This being a Synetic production, there is plenty of dancing, which the cast, all of whom are stepping up from community theater or the Academy, performs with workmanlike efficiency. They will not be mistaken for the great Ben Cunis or the fabulous Irini Tsikurishvilli, who have the title roles in the big company’s Antony and Cleopatra, but they are sufficient. While children’s theater is not the best venue to show your acting chops, it is obvious that the cast knows what it’s doing, and that Director/Choreographer Nicholas Allen has achieved precisely what he set out to achieve. Meiklejohn seems particularly charismatic in her multiple roles, but all the actors sell themselves successfully, and the thing is brought off with considerable theatricality.
After the show I saw, the cast stayed on stage to say hello to the target audience, and thus receive instant critical feedback. They were mobbed. King Mitchell directed the audience to sing happy birthday to an extraordinarily good-looking young man, which we all did with great enthusiasm, if indifferent skill. A great gaggle of young women surrounded Princess Day and Magician Meiklejohn, but if that was in appreciation for their accomplishments or because they all aspire to be princesses or magicians themselves, I can not say.
Puss ‘n Boots
Adapted by Ramola D from a story by Charles Perrault
Directed by Nicholas Allen
Choreography by Nicholas Allen and Jessica Seminerio
Produced by Synetic Family Theater
Reviewed by Tim Treanor
Puss ‘n Boots runs thru March 14, 2010.
For Details, Directions and Tickets, click here.