Disney’s The Aristocats | Stages St. Louis

The-Aristocats 75Whatever your age, I guarantee you’ll find this performance to be absolutely purr-fect!

 

 

 

 

“Everybody wants to be a cat, because the cat’s the only cat who knows where it’s at!” Even a devoted dog lover like myself left Stages’ production of Disney’s The Aristocats wishing I had some feline friends waiting for me back home!

Based on the 1970 film of the same name, The Aristocats is the energetic, music-filled tale of a family of cats, living with their loving and extremely wealthy owner, Madame (Michelle Burdette Elmore) in Paris, France. (Elmore comically opens the show speaking in French to the bemusement and puzzlement of the show’s young audience members). The kittens, Toulouse (Ronan Ryan), Berlioz (Alex Meuret), and Marie (Maria Knasel) plus mama cat Duchess (April Strelinger) are the only family Madame has, so guess who stands to inherit all that money—yep, her precious fur babies! (The crazy part—this story of inheritance is actually based on a true story! Thanks to Stages for that bit of cat-tastic trivia)!

As you could imagine, Madame’s only real human confidant, her butler Edgar (John Flack), is none too pleased about these financial circumstances, especially considering his hatred of (and allergic reactions to) these meow-makers. In attempt to solve his problem, Edgar catnaps Duchess and her kittens and abandons them in a country field, far from their lavish lifestyle back in Paris. Luckily there’s a very handsome, orange alley cat named Thomas O’ Malley (David Schmittou) who—motivated by his attraction to Duchess—is eager to help the desperate bunch find their way back gone.

To say I was impressed by this performance is a wild understatement. As a 90’s baby who grew up watching The Aristocats on VHS, I was giddy with nostalgia and laughed right along with kids. I was smiling throughout the entire hour-long performance, which was very loyal to the film I love. If I’m being honest, I actually consider this to be the best stage adaptation of a Disney film that I have seen, and that’s coming from someone who has also attended performances of Beauty and the Beast, The Lion King, Tarzan, and Aladdin. I, in part, credit the excellence of this movie to stage translation to the intimacy of Stages’ Westport Plaza theatre space, called The Playhouse. It’s small, yet spacious, with plenty of room for the actors to comfortably roam and interact with audience members. You can sit in the back row without feeling far from the action, which helps to really lock-in the attention of every crowd member, young or old. There were many young children in the audience, and my heart warmed to see just how mesmerized they were as they watched, hardly stirring in their seats.

Of course, the actors and production team are the primary reason this show is so spectacular! Garth Dunbar’s costumes were fantastic and the makeup successfully assisted one’s imagination in an attempt to forget that there were actually humans beneath all that fur. Thanks to scenic designer James Wolk and lighting designer Matthew McCarthy, the transition between Paris and the countryside was flawless, and some of the musical numbers were accompanied by the surprise of multicolored, flashing lights. The actors were superb in their portrayals, clearly blessed with the ability to perform for children (further supported after the show during a short Q&A session with the cast). I was particularly impressed with Schmittou as O’Malley and Flack as Edgar, both of whom were extremely animated and just a whole lot of fun! (Flack’s cat allergy induced violent sneezing and congestion was at once convincing and comical. As a fellow individual with cat allergies I could relate, though poor Edgar couldn’t even utter the word cat without being interrupted by a sneeze)!

Whatever your age, I guarantee you’ll find this performance to be absolutely purr-fect! | Megan Washausen

Stages’ production of Disney’s The Aristocats runs through June 28. To view the exact show dates and times, and to purchase tickets, visit http://www.stagesstlouis.org/

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