Cat + Hat + Kids - Fish = Lunacy

The title character (Caleb Ryan Sigmon) offers questionable advice to youngsters (Chester Shepherd and Margaret Dalton) in Children’s Theatre’s “The Cat in the Hat.”
The title character (Caleb Ryan Sigmon) offers questionable advice to youngsters (Chester Shepherd and Margaret Dalton) in Children’s Theatre’s “The Cat in the Hat.” Donna Bise

That tricky cat. His antics are well underway before “Dr. Seuss’ The Cat in the Hat” begins at Children’s Theatre of Charlotte. To the tune of vaudeville music, the mischievous feline urges parents to participate in his self-aggrandizing capers. It’s hard to tell who is more delighted at his success, the Cat or the children in the audience.

This Cat likes attention and knows how to get it. The beloved tale begins with Sally and the Boy gazing plaintively out the window on a stormy day. As in many successful stories for children, parents are nowhere to be found.

From minute one through the end, Adam Burke’s direction is precise. The children are introduced while moving in tandem, gracefully gliding in synchronized motion on castered chairs. They are bored. It is raining. Can something please relieve their tedium?

Enter the Cat, round of tummy, sly of expression and full of ideas. Caleb Ryan Sigmon seems born to play the part. His slapstick entrance so astonishes the children that they don’t question his presence. Only the Fish, played as a hand puppet by Mark Sutton, has a modicum of sense. He is the voice of reason, which in itself is amusing.

The Cat is the ultimate purveyor of peer pressure. The excitement of being around him is far more powerful than the children’s ability to enforce basic rules: Don’t let strangers in the house, don’t fly kites in the living room, and don’t let someone you barely know balance on a ball while holding your fish in his bowl.

This is a technically magnificent production. Steven Ivey plays the live narrator. Jason Romney’s precise and ubiquitous sound design is crucial to the production. It brings an invisible tennis ball to life as the Cat volleys it up and down, then turns that tennis racket into a banjo and an electric guitar.

Lighting designer Eric Winkenwerder makes lightning flash or bubbles sparkle and creates a violet illusion to accompany slow-motion action. Magda Guichard’s costume design is eye-catching. The Cat and the children wear black and white with subtle pops of red, shoelaces for the Boy (Chester Shepherd) and a hair bow for Sally (Margaret Dalton). The cat’s white face and white gloves complement his proclivity for mime. The tulle on his shoulders and tail give him the scratch look of an alley cat – an appropriate character clue.

The Cat has the demeanor of a spoiled 2-year-old and the imagination of an office prankster. And like any cat, his goal is to make the world revolve around him and his needs. It’s a winning combination.

‘Dr. Seuss’ The Cat in the Hat’

Children’s Theatre of Charlotte does the familiar story of a mischievous feline and two humans he leads astray.

WHEN: Through May 3 at 11 a.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday. Also 1 p.m. April 25 and May 2 and 7:30 p.m. May 1.

WHERE: ImaginOn, 300 E. Seventh St.

TICKETS: $16-24.

RUNNING TIME: 70 minutes.

DETAILS: 704-973-2828 or ctcharlotte.org.