It seems one can’t get enough of the “If you Give a X a Y” formula these days to assure a good time. Following last year’s successful “Pig” and “Pancake” duo featuring Holly Twyford in the title role is Adventure Theatre’s latest escapade world premiere, If You Give a Cat a Cupcake, presented with equal zest and appeal, but with a different flair.
Again, director Jerry Whiddon is at his whimsical best, and the perennially put upon Branda Lock again plays the adorable daughter who gets caught up in the screwball antics of a precocious pet, in this case, a headstrong, adventuresome calico cat, Eddie.
And what a cat he is! Linden Tailor plays Eddie with athletic prowess and endless charm that’s hard to resist. Add his turned up tail by costume designer Kathleen Geldard and he’s got just the right cheeky look to get into and out of all kinds of mischief. Which indeed he does, starting with gigantic sprinkles on his cupcake. Let the fun begin.
From his first pounce to perch on the cabinet, to his spins and callisthenic twists, Tailor exudes exuberance and strength. Instead of the typical sing-song format, the production moves through the multiple scenes with pop tunes, sound effects, even a bit of Carmen thrown in. Here’s where Lock gets to shine in operatic glory with her soaring, full-bodied voice. The two are well matched with Lock sweetly wrestling with her good-girl conscience at each maneuver before opting for fun and excitement, living every child’s dream. She’s also light on her feet and strong enough to do the heavy lifting, carrying, sparring and whirling with Eddie on cue.
From wanting a cookie with sprinkles, which need to be cleaned up, of course, the cat wants to head to the beach and then work out to get in shape. Tailor has fun with the Rocky theme, and then strikes his pose as a Samurai warrior protecting his sand castle. Once he convinces Emily to join him, she jumps in as the Queen of the castle and they battle with props in a well choreographed fight sequence making good use of movement coach, Karin Abromaitis’ training because one false move and, ouch. The two even travel across a lake in a gondola-type boat for a funny sequence before landing at a natural history museum for more hilarity, ending with a touching message using the sand to appreciate the fleeting moments in one’s life.
Calarco’s adaptation works well enough although I missed not having any song routines depicting the journey of this dynamic duo. Some of the transitions lag a bit and would have floundered without Tailor’s athletic mastery. Having performed with Synetic Theater, he keeps the show moving for a fully satisfying adventure. The scenic design by Hannah Jean Crowell looks deceptively simple, but the flat back cupboards convert to depict all of the necessary backgrounds, including the necessary kitchen table holding the treasured cupcakes, even a rowboat tucked in the stage’s ledge. Lighting by Jason Arnold and sound by Neil McFadden fill in nicely for a full effect.
The hits keep coming in this season of winners for Adventure Theatre. Next up, A Year with Frog and Toad will be followed by the treasured Charlotte’s Web.
If you give a creative children’s theatre some classic favorites… well, you can see the results.
[Note: We are told there are limited seats available, so best make your purchase as quickly as possible.]
If You Give a Cat a Cupcake
Based on the book by Laura Numeroff
Adapted by Renee Calarco
Directed by Jerry Whiddon
Produced by Adventure Theatre
Reviewed by Debbie Minter Jackson
Running Time: 45 minutes w/out intermission