The Friday Free For All: Dr Suess’s In The Hat Live On Stage

Welcome once again to the Friday Free For all for September 28, 2012. I know I missed Wednesday’s Wednesday With Will, but I’ll make it up I promise. Had some other things to take care of (like working on lines).

Earlier this week I posted a story about the emergence and importance of children’s theater. One of the things it mentioned in that article was that Europe is leading the way in children’s theater, producing works for younger and younger audiences. Today I’m going to review a show that is the emodiement of this growing movement.

Dr Suess’s The Cat In The Hat: Live on Stage (I’m spelling it the way that it is listed on Netflix) is a 30 minute recorded live on stage at the National Theater in London. Directed by acclaimed director Katie Mitchell and starring Angus Wright as the titular Cat. This is how children’s theater SHOULD be. It’s energetic, kinetic, engaging to younger audiences, and true to its source material. And by true to its source material, I mean it is TRUE to Dr. Suess’ original book. One complaint about the live action Grinch and Cat in the Hat movies were that they packed more material into those movies then were in the original stories and deviated from the source material. This doesn’t. Every word that Theodore Geisel wrote is here and nary a word is added.

The acting is top notch as well, as you can expect from London’s National Theater. The actor playing Sally and Sally’s brother do amazing work with almost no lines and Wright’s Cat brings a…well a danger to the role that was lacking in Mike Myers’ performance. But it’s Justin Salinger as the Fish that is a true delight. From his entrance  with a bubble machine in one hand and a Fish puppet in the other, he adds complexity and simplicity to his performance.

That could be said about this entire performance, from Vicki Mortimer’s stage design to Paul Clark’s jazzy score, everything is complex and yet simple. The set is simple (which appeals to my minimalist sensibilities)  capturing the simple ink drawings of Dr. Suess but then the do the famous balancing scene from the book where The Cat balances on a ball along with The Fish in his bowl, a tea cup on his head, etc. I’m not sure how they did it but it’s amazing.

The Cat In The Hat: Live On Stage is available instantly on Netflix.

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