It was such a delightful good time, I left the theater laughing in rhyme.
"Dr. Seuss' The Cat in the Hat," which was adapted by playwright Katie Mitchell for Britain's Royal National Theatre, made its U.S. premiere Friday at the Children's Theatre in Minneapolis. Playfully directed by Jason Ballweber, the physically deft production stretches out Dr. Seuss' antic but thin text. The one-hour show captures children and adults alike with its silly, frolicsome fun.
My 5-year-old taste-tester, Lila Riemenschneider (daughter of music critic colleague Chris), was often smiling during "Cat." She said it was better than "Babe," which she also saw at the Children's Theatre.
It's easy to see why Lila found this "Cat" so giggle-making. It's Dr. Seuss' zany story of a boy and girl, stuck inside on a rainy day, who have adventures with an unexpected visitor brought to three-dimensional life.
The bright, off-kilter design immediately announces that we are in the fanciful world of Dr. Seuss -- from Rebecca Fuller Jensen's sunny lights to Samantha Johns' quirkily faithful set pieces and props, including furniture and paintings strung on a line and a big red box that the Cat carries in on its back.
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. Holt's Cat carries the box that bears Thing 1 (Gabby Zonneveld) and Thing 2 (Kenzi Allen), two cryptic creatures whose cotton candy-like hair matches the color of their tongues.
The Cat also brings joy to the Girl (Elise Langer) and the Boy (Douglas Neithercott) who would otherwise be bored at home. These two find physical humor in silent, simple actions, such as looking out the window or sitting on a chair.
Children's Theatre veteran Gerald Drake plays the fish, a character that must muzzle fear in the face of this sure-footed, boss-acting feline.
Nearly every action in "Cat," from the quiet to the madcap, is accompanied by loopy pre-recorded music and sound effects.
For what it offers -- festive feeding of children's imaginations -- "Cat" offers plenty to like.
Rohan Preston 612-673-4390 On Twitter: @RohanPreston