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“GARFIELD” WILL FEND OFF A CASE OF THE MONDAYS

Review by Liz Eichler of “Garfield”: The Children’s Theatre of Cincinnati

If you have children or grandchildren in the 4-10 year old range (especially for those who have a hard time getting out of bed), you can’t go wrong with “Garfield: The Musical with Cattitude” produced by The Children’s Theatre of Cincinnati. You can experience it safely “live and in-person” through February 14, 2021 at their Red Bank Road Theatre or streaming on Broadway Across America, starting January 28. 

This children’s musical is about the lazy, cantankerous cat, Garfield, who feels unloved when no one mentions his birthday so he decides to pack up his stuffed bear “Pookie” and run away (but no one told him it actually meant “running” and that he’d have to leave the TV and refrigerator behind).

This 55-minute show flys by, as we meet lasagna-loving Garfield, his person Jon, and Garfield’s pals: dog Odie, significant feline Arlene and the kitten Nermal. The energetic performers sing and dance and escape the animal control net. The audience responded to the actors’ very expressive body language, silly antics, and how the caterwauling in the alley erupts into a Broadway-style production.  In the intimate space of TCT’s Ralph and Patricia Corbett’s Showtime Stage, fewer than 50 were allowed in the audience, due to current Ohio Covid regulations.  Children, parents, and grandparents are up close and personal–and encouraged to ask actors questions after the performance. 

The animated cast includes Deondra Kamau Means as the Monday-hating Garfield, A. James Jones as Jon/Animal Control, Brandi Langford-Sherrill as Arlene, Maddie Burgoon Jones as Nermal, and Evan Blust as Odie. Directed by Eric Byrd. Based on the Comic Strip GARFIELD by Jim Davis, Book by Michael J. Bobbitt and Jim Davis, Music and Lyrics by John L. Cornelius II. 

The costumes by TCT’s Resident Costume Designer, Jeff Shearer, are clever, bright, cheerful, and practical. The actors have Covid protecting masks embedded into their imaginative costumes. Garfield’s costume is inspired by an orange tracksuit and slippers–perfect for a cat who loves to nap! Odie has some of the most expressive ears, Arlene is exceptionally sophisticated in her sweater set and pearls, and Nermel, well, she is just so cute (don’t tell Garfield!) The colorful cartoony set is framed by Garfield’s face in lights, to the delight of many of the young people attending. 

COVID protocol is followed, down to the detail. Temperature is taken when you enter. Chairs that are not to be used are tied up with purple bow, the theatre is thoroughly cleaned after each performance, and the actors’ voices are pre-recorded, allowing more opportunity for expressive movement. At all in-person shows, mandatory masks for the audience, as well as social distancing, will be required. For complete health and safety protocols, visit https://thechildrenstheatre.com/2020/08/safety-protocols/.