Performing Arts

Rambunctious performances by a solid ensemble make ‘Garfield’ a rollicking good time

Garfield (Steven Eubank) and Arlene (Brianna Renee Woods) share an interesting friendship.
Garfield (Steven Eubank) and Arlene (Brianna Renee Woods) share an interesting friendship. The Coterie theater

In his comics, Garfield the cat loves to sleep, eat and complain about everything (especially Mondays). And, while you’ll see plenty of that in his musical, the Coterie theater also brings the lazy feline to life with singing, dancing and, yes, even running for a rambunctiously fun time that will entertain audiences of all ages.

Garfield: The Musical With Cattitude” opened Friday night and, even at the matinee show the following day, the actors gave energized performances that would make you think it was opening night all over again. It’s no wonder each genuinely seemed to be having a blast on stage; after all, playing characters basically made for the stage must make the job easy.

The 55-minute musical follows the famous feline and his friends’ misadventures as he wakes up one morning to find his birthday has fallen on a Monday — and that his pals have seemingly forgottem about his special day. Indignant as only Garfield can be, he runs away from home to explore life in the alley without humans — and, as he soon finds out, all the comforts that come with them.

The plot is simple but sweet, with pleasant songs sprinkled through. While they’re not earworms you’ll leave the theater humming, they’re enthusiastically performed by a three-man band, including a stellar saxophone in one of the show’s more entertaining numbers, “I Hate Mondays.”

But the true stars here are the actors. Led by Steven Eubank as the titular character, they each embody their characters brilliantly, taking two-dimensional personalities off of newsprint comics and making them exuberant singing-and-dancing joys to watch.

Eubank (who just last week was still playing an assassin at Spinning Tree) is a solid casting choice as the sleepy and sarcastic orange cat. Lauren Taylor is effortlessly sweet as his nemesis Nermal; Andy Perkins is charming and goofy as Garfield’s owner, Jon; and Brianna Renee Woods is equally infatuated and brash as his exasperated love interest, Arlene.

Special props go to Darrington Clark as Odie; he not only physically embodies the energy of dog but also manages to speak, sing and dance while holding his tongue out of his mouth. “Garfield: The Musical” is strongest when the entire ensemble comes together on stage, especially in a tap-dancing number with an animal control officer (Perkins in an inflatable chub suit).

Equally standout are the works of the creative team. From the moment audiences arrive at the theater, they feel like they’ve stepped into Jim Davis’ comic with set designer Jordan Janota’s choices; cheery walls and colorful accents instantly transport us to a world where animals can talk. A clever set change easily switches the scene to the outdoor alley without compromising the cartoonish look.

Georgianna Londré Buchanan’s costume designs are simple but do the trick. They’re just as you’d imagine a human dressing as an animal to look; realism isn’t the key here. Perkins has the most entertaining clothing choices; in addition to the inflatable cop suit, as Jon, he’s decked out in a ridiculous blond wig complete with flared jeans and the classic yellow polo.

All the effects combine to make “Garfield: The Musical” a show that you can’t help but enjoy, even if you’re not under the age of 10. The energy throughout is infectious, especially in the plentiful opportunities for audience interaction. No need to be a fan of the comics to enjoy this musical; as long as you’re in for a enjoyable time, “Garfield: The Musical” is the show for you.

On stage

“Garfield: The Musical With Cattitude” continues through Aug. 6 at the Coterie in Crown Center. See thecoterie.org or call 816-474-6552.

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