Garfield: The Musical with Cattitude

Despite having never heard of Garfield, the sarcastic comic strip cat, my five-year-old son thoroughly enjoyed Adventure Theatre-MTC’s world premiere production of Garfield: The Musical with Cattitude. The scriptwriters chose a relatable storyline focused on Garfield’s birthday and kept things simple enough that all ages can follow easily along.

Garfield at Adventure Theatre MTCPre-show, there is audio piped in with Garfield creator Jim Davis’ voice giving the house rules. Once the actors come out, the five main characters are introduced right away. They are distinct enough that it’s easy to keep track of who’s who, with each sporting a different color jogging suit (with giant tails) topped off with hats with ears. The actors each play only one character (except for one – the human – who plays three).

The straightforward plot is quickly established: It’s Garfield’s birthday but everyone has forgotten so he decides to run away and seek adventure. Ultimately he returns home to find his friends throwing him a surprise party.

This is a musical with spoken parts mixed in. The 10 or so songs are catchy while staying concise, and the choreography is simple.

There are a ton of references in the play to cat behavior that kids may not get – such as catnaps and nine lives – but that should not detract from enjoying the performance. Young children especially will not understand all the I-hate-Mondays mentions. And some of the lines that were probably intended to be funny fell flat. The actor playing Garfield often has his gaze fixed up and in the distance, reminding me of thought bubbles from comic strips.

Garfield at Adventure Theatre MTCThe children in the audience when we attended were most amused at the overly animated faces made by Garfield and a few other characters. They also loved Odie the dog and his way of communicating with howls and other dog noises, no actual words. A scene where Garfield tosses cat food out the door (he was hoping for his much-loved lasagna) drew big laughs.

At one point in the show, just when things were dragging a bit and kids were rustling in their seats, an animal control officer enters for a high-energy chase scene that was the highlight of the show for my son. The triple-layer chocolate cake prop that is taller than most kids is still being talked about in our house.

The one female character in the show, the cat Arlene, is played with a strong Jersey accent and coyly playful (well, kittenish) behavior. I would have liked to see a better female character, but I guess the show tried to stay true to the comic strip.

Adventure Theatre-MTC recommends Garfield for all ages. There’s nothing at all scary or mature in the show. In my opinion, children ages 3 to 7 are most likely to enjoy Garfield. There’s no audience interaction during the show, but the theater’s intimate set up and the show’s short run time (one hour, no intermission) are perfect for kids.

More Info

  • Garfield: The Musical with Cattitude runs through Aug. 23, 2015. Tickets are $19.50 (free for children under 1).
  • The cast is often in the lobby post-show for pictures or questions.
  • A few Garfield items are for sale in the tiny box office.
  • A sensory- and autism-friendly performance is Aug. 15 at 2PM; an American Sign Language performance is July 11 at 2PM
  • Glen Echo also boasts a carousel, playground, small cafe, art buildings and lots of space for meandering. The Irish Inn at Glen Echo, with pub food, is right next to the park.
  • The parking lot is a good distance from the theater. Allow 10-15 minutes to make the walk. Strollers can be left outside the theater building.

Photo Credits

  • Photo 1: Evan Casey as Garfield and Emily Zickler as Arlene.  Photo by Bruce Douglas.
  • Photo 2: John Sygar as Odie and Evan Casey as Garfield. Photo by Mike Horan.
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