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Monday, February 27, 2017

Childsplay brings “The Cat in the Hat” comedic fun to Tempe stage

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Childsplay’s “The Cat in the Hat” is back on stage at Tempe Center for the Arts Jan. 14-Feb. 19. Photos courtesy of Childsplay.

Would you trust a mischievous cat wearing a red-and-white striped hat and a red bow tie?

Maybe not. Enjoy? Absolutely.

And that’s exactly what audiences will do Saturday Jan. 14 through Sunday, Feb. 19, when Childsplay brings Dr. Seuss’ ever-popular “The Cat in the Hat” back to the Tempe Center for the Arts. It previously played there in 2014, followed by a record-breaking national tour in 2015.

Here’s the story: It’s a rainy afternoon with Mom away when this most unusual Cat shows up with his companions, Thing One and Thing Two, to entertain Sally and her brother. Entertain they do, but they also wreak havoc with their antics. Will the kids be able to clean up before Mom returns? And what does the children’s pet fish have to say about all this?

“You can boil everything down to fun … simple and clear,” says director David Barker. “The Cat wants to have fun. And so do we! The show feels just as youthful and exhilarating as reading a Dr. Seuss book.”

And no wonder, since it was adapted (by Katie Mitchell) from the 1957 book by Theodor Geisel, aka Dr. Seuss. Dr. Seuss reportedly wrote the book in response to a call to make children’s reading primers less boring. 

Debra K. Stevens (Thing One), Rebecca Duckworth (Thing Two), Katie McFadzen (Cat), Ricky Arazia (Fish). Photo courtesy of Childsplay.

From right: Debra K. Stevens (Thing One), Rebecca Duckworth (Thing Two), Katie McFadzen (Cat), and Ricky Arazia (Fish) star in a previous Childsplay production of “The Cat in the Hat.”

Recommended for ages 3 and up, “The Cat in the Hat” features Childsplay associate artist Jon Gentry as the Cat, Alan Khoutakoun as Thing One, Jenny Hintze as Thing Two, Drew Swaine as Boy and Shannon Phelps as Sally.

Kate Haas, who played Sally in the original 2014 Childsplay production, returns this year as the Fish. She also played the Fish on the national tour last year, and will do so on tour this year as well.

“I was very excited when I was offered a chance to return to the world of ‘The Cat in the Hat,’” she says. “The show is all about the power of imagination and play, which was how I spent most of my childhood entertaining myself. In a world increasingly dominated by electronic forms of entertainment, I feel that this play reminds us that we have the universe at our fingertips, through our imagination.

Haas adds that she “also found great joy in exploring the play through a new character’s eyes. The Fish has a very different perspective going into the events of the story, and that clash with the Cat is so much fun to play.”

In addition to the regular performances and a special Storybook Preview on Saturday, Jan. 14, Childsplay is hosting a birthday bash for the 60-year-old “Cat in the Hat” at 2 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 5, at the Childsplay Campus for Imagination & Wonder, 900 S. Mitchell Drive in Tempe. Families are invited to come and celebrate in true Seuss style, with games, crafts, snacks, a creative drama time and a visit from the Cat. A performance of “The Cat in the Hat” follows the party at 4 p.m. at the Tempe Center for the Arts. Purchase tickets (includes party and performance; $40 per person) at http://www.childsplayaz.org/CatBirthdayBash. Children must be accompanied by an adult.

Come ready to have fun and suspend believe. Because you know what? Maybe a mischievous cat wearing a red-and-white striped hat and red bow tie isn’t so unbelievable after all.

If you go: Jan. 14–Feb, 19; 1 and 4 p.m. Saturdays, 1 p.m. Sundays. Special performance: $12 Storybook Preview 1 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 14. Tempe Center for the Arts, 700 W. Rio Salado Parkway. $12-$26. 480-350-2822 (ext. 2) or childsplayaz.org.

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Doris Nehrbass

Doris Nehrbass, of Peoria, is a freelance writer, editor and proofreader.

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