By Ilaria Cutolo
I know what to expect when I see a TheaterWorksUSA production: a blasting good time! TWUSA has been adapting children’s books for live theater since 1961 for families and young audiences with over 140 award-winning original plays such as The Magic School Bus, Dog Man The Musical, and Pete’s Big Hollywood Adventure, just to name a few, all consisting of stellar alumni. Cat Kid Comic Club The Musical, adapted from the series of books by Dav Pilkey best known for Captain Underpants and Dog Man, is TWUSA’s most recent production.
The stage explodes with vibrant color, whimsical catchy songs, and a “supa-dupa” talented cast of 6 performers that bring barrels of laughs, voice chops, and silly fun to the stage for a rollicking 70 minutes. I loved the slightly surreal and “you just have to roll with it” numbers such as “Dennis the Toothbrush Lawyer for Dinosaurs” and “Chubbs McSpiderbutt” (Brian Owen).
The production opens with a number called “The End” because baby tadpoles have gone rogue destroying the city and Cat Kid (played by Sonia Roman) comes to the rescue. Cat Kid and Molly Polly Dog (both Roman) decide to teach these 21 rambunctious tadpoles how to make their own comics and papa frog Flippy (Jamie LaVerdiere) is over the moon. But will they all finish their comics and be able to have the “mega-gigantic” and “humongous-enormous” party they’ve all been promised? Or will their outlandish imaginations and the sibling quibbles of Curly (Brian Owen), Melvin (Dan Rosales), Naomi (Mark Nicole Smith), and Poppy (L.R. Davidson) threaten to up-end the club?
Words such as “irreverent”, “madcap”, “whimsical” and “laugh-out-loud” pretty much sum up the fun and delight I felt while watching this show. I chuckled through it, and more than a few times, found myself belly-laughing with numbers like “The Cute, Little Fluffy Cloud of Death,” performed with the perfect amount of ridiculous wide-eyed naivete from Poppy (Davidson), while surrounded by an audience of kids under 10 and their caregivers.
This show is for anyone who needs a break, 70 minutes to be exact, from the dog days of summer. For an hour and 10 minutes I was swept up in the silly joy of being a kid again; going for a fun ride through imagination land just for the heck of it. It was the perfect way to spend the recent, hot, stretch of NYC heat as I sat in an air-conditioned theater just enjoying myself. I didn’t know what to expect as I have never read the Cat Kid Club series. I arrived as a newbie and left a fan.
I recommend this show to anyone of any age, from 0 to 100+ even though the target audience is more like 4 through 10. The more pre-teen and up youth crowd may not be as keen, but honestly, if your inner kid needs a boost, this show won’t disappoint. My 12-year-old plus 1 for the evening gave me a few side-eyed glances, but seriously, take it from me: get the family off the sofa and go see this show! You’ll leave feeling giddy and light as if you inhaled one too many helium balloons or downed too many Skittles.
WITH: The limited run is written by the award-winning team of Kevin Del Aguila (book and lyrics) and Brad Alexander (music), with direction and choreography by Marlo Hunter and musical direction by Paul Staroba. L.R. Davidson (TWUSA’s Dog Man. Regional: Follies), Jamie LaVerdiere (Broadway: Motown The Musical, TWUSA’s Dog Man), Brian Owen (TWUSA’s Dog Man. Mint Theater’s Chains), Sonia Roman (NY: More Than This: A New Musical), Dan Rosales (TWUSA’s Dog Man. Off-Broadway: Trevor), Markia Nicole Smith (Regional: School Girls; Or The African Mean Girls Play, TWUSA’s Dog Man), with understudies Jeremy Fuentes (Regional: Xanadu) and Malynne Smith (TWUSA’s Rosie Revere Engineer and Friends),
The creative team includes Set Design by Cameron Anderson, Lighting Design by David Lander, Costume Design by Jen Caprio, Co-Sound Designers Scott Stauffer & Jesse Desrosiers, Puppet Design by Acheson Walsh Studios/ Fergus Walsh, Matt Acheson.