Cue the preening fat cats and scaredy mice in a struggle between naïve virtue and self-assured vice.

The stage adaptation of "An American Tail," a fable about the nation's cherished myths and age-old conflicts, premiered Saturday at the Children's Theatre in Minneapolis. It is entertaining, charming and, I daresay, hootilicious.

Director Taibi Magar's production skitters onto the stage with irrepressible spirit, amid notes of doubt and uncertainty. It offers a peephole into a past that doesn't seem so far away.

Set at the turn of the 19th century, the transporting musical takes place in a neat suitcase-framed set designed by Jason Sherwood, who also designed the 2020 Oscars. Trevor Bowen crafted the evocative period costumes, accented by oversized ears and tails, and all are smartly lit by Jeanette Oi-Suk Yew.

Itamar Moses adapted the script from the 1986 Universal film that New York Times critic Vincent Canby called "witless" and that Siskel and Ebert gave two thumbs down. These critics found the story too "dark" and "gloomy" for youngsters.

But in an era when childhood includes active shooter drills and instant social media images of the latest human mayhem, a narrative about Russian mice escaping for freedom in America is kind of old-fashioned by comparison, even if it offers a social critique wrapped in Michael Mahler's and Alan Schmuckler's clever songs and choreographer Katie Spelman's delightful dances.

As fascist cats menace the Mousekewitz family in Russia, they flee to a place they imagine as heaven on Earth. "There are no cats in America and the streets are paved with cheese," they sing boisterously. "There are no cats in America, so set your mind at ease."

But Fievel (Matthew Woody) gets separated from Papa (Luverne Seifert), Mama (Becca Hart) and sister Tanya (Lillian Hochman) enroute. He arrives in New York alone and vulnerable in a city where the governing agreement, the Great Compromouse, means that as soon as they can't work anymore, mice and other critters get eaten.

OK, there are a ton of puns in "Tail," some of them totally, well, cheesy. But that's part of the fun. The music, from the Klezmer-influenced tones at Hannukah observance that launches the show to a fat cat's hep cat jazz, is fun and propulsive. Mahler and Schmuckler even interpolate "America the Beautiful" as a discordant, Tom Waits-esque anthem for Warren P. Rat (also Seifert), a fat rat with a secret.

Woody carries the show on his small but sturdy shoulders and in his young but expressive voice. He delivers with stamina and heart as he takes us on Fievel's journey from dreaminess ("Somewhere Out There") and hope ("Never Say Never") to fear and determination ("Stop Those Cats"). Bravo!

Hochman and Woody have a beautiful duet on "Somewhere," investing the song with a range of feeling and beauty.

For his two roles, Seifert is like Jekyll and Hyde in "Tail," summoning graciousness and warmth as Papa, then quickly changing costumes to be the menacing Warren P. Rat. He is superb at both and is especially nimble when his Warren P. has a Freudian slip welcoming Fievel: "You'll thank me for how I enslaved you, I mean sold you, I mean saved you."

In truth, the whole cast is capable, even as the tech crew is still working out some of the kinks and cues. Hart is present and embodied as Mama. But this talented performer deserves a song.

Ryan London Levin plays Fievel's best friend, Tony, with wit and understanding, and he and Kiko Laureano, who plays rabble-rousing community organizer Bridget, deliver and dance beautifully together.

There's speculation about whether "Tail," produced in association with Universal Theatrical Group, will end up in Times Square.

But forget Broadway for a moment. The bigger question is can "Tail" be played in Florida. First, it may run afoul of edicts narrowing what Americans should learn about their history, since it's not all rah-rah America's great, blah-blah the greatest great.

This musical honors the intelligence of young people who know what Fievel discovers, and that is our stories are much more complicated and layered than any fairy tale.

But the other thing about "Tail" that might give certain Floridians comic pause, and it's unspoken, is that when the mice are having a wake, it's for a mouse named, drum roll please, Mickey. Ha! This is one of the many small, meticulous things about this winning show that's stalking the stage at CTC. This "Tail" has earned its standing O's.

'An American Tail the Musical'
Who: Book and lyrics by Itamar Moses. Music and lyrics by Michael Mahler and Alan Schmuckler. Choreographed by Katie Spelman and directed by Taibi Magar.
Where: Children's Theatre, 2400 3rd Av. S., Mpls.
When: 7 p.m. Tue.-Sat., 2 Sun. Ends June 18.
Tickets: $15-$94. or 612-874-0400.