Garfield: The Musical with Cattitude – theatre review

My take on Garfield: The Musical with Cattitude – energetic, fun and funny.

This musical is based on the world’s most widely syndicated comic strip. Jim Davis created the cat Garfield, the human Jon Arbuckle and the dog Odie in 1978. Today it is syndicated to more than 2,500 media outlets worldwide. Common themes in the strip include Garfield’s laziness, obsessive eating, coffee and disdain of Mondays. All of those are also dealt with in this musical. The book is by Michael J. Bobbitt and Jim Davis; with music and lyrics by John L. Cornelius II.

It’s Garfield’s birthday. But his friends don’t seem to have remembered the big day, and old grumble-guts is none too pleased about that. He’s so upset that he decides to “escape” from the luxurious surrounds Jon has afforded. He quickly discovers it’s a big bad world out there … and that changes his perspective.

Larger-than-life lead Lachlan Graham is loud, proud and petulant – the perfect combination for the arrogant and egotistical central character. Callum Warrender has a star turn as Odie. Several moments shine through, including his love of rubbish and his pièce de résistance when hilariously speaking with his friends in “doggy talk”. Grace Browne is true to her name – graceful and caring – as Arlene, a kitty lady friend who enjoys singing on the fence with Garfield. Laura Greenhalgh is well cast as Garfield’s younger nemesis, Nermal, who has her own sense of attitude and self-importance. And then there’s Alec Steedman in the dual roles of Jon; and the Animal Controller, out to round up the stray cats in the neighbourhood. A sixth character in the production is Garfield’s teddy bear, Pooky, about whom the rotund tabby can be just a tad over protective. Pooky’s entry to the show is memorable as Garfield prowls among the audience to find him.

Garfield The Musical starts with promise and delivers. A large cat’s tail sweeps downs from a raised box in the middle of the stage, which is ringed by orange strip lighting. Suddenly the show starts. Garfield snores and we’re into a dream sequence. My favourite musical number, which is reprised at the end of the show, appears early on. It’s “I Hate Mondays”. In the play, Garfield’s birthday happens to fall on a Monday.

The show makes good use of humour and hijinks throughout – very much led from the front by the garrulous Graham. Arguably his finest moment comes when trying to reclaim Pooky while on the run. As Arlene, Nermel and Odie look on, Garfield slowly crawls backwards towards his stuffed toy – his histrionics on show for all to see. The audience loved it. In fact at several stages, the younger members were quite excited – adding to the atmosphere.

The choreography by Madi Lee is a feature and includes slow motion, a tap routine and a dance number. Director Luigi Lucente and musical director Caleb Garfinkel have ensured Garfield The Musical well and truly reaches its target market, giving children a positive and rounded experience to remember. It’s playing at Chapel off Chapel until 13 April 2018.

Alex First

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