BWW Reviews: Stages St. Louis' Absolutely Delightful THE ARISTOCATS

By: Jun. 10, 2015

The feature length animated film, The Aristocats (1970), was the last project Walt Disney approved before his death in 1966. My son and I watched it several years ago on DVD, when he was just a little tyke. And then, in 2010 we attended Stages St. Louis' wonderful production of the show. Five years later I was little hesitant to bring him to their latest presentation, just because he's that much older, but I think he actually enjoyed it more the second time around. He's now at an age where he can really appreciate the work that goes into bringing these shows to the stage. He loved the performances and music, and so did I. Stages has put together an excellent show that, obviously, has appeal for kids of all ages (and adults as well), and it's currently gracing the stage of The Westport Playhouse. I think the intimacy of the venue acts to enhance the experience, bringing the audience that much closer to the action.

The story (adapted by Michael Bernard, who also provides additional lyrics) follows a family of felines who stand to inherit the fortune of their mistress, known only as Madame. She's altered her will to allow for their continued care after she passes, and her butler, Edgar, is none to happy about this turn of events. Not only is he allergic to the critters, but he also stands to gain monetarily if they just happen to "disappear". Thus, he hatches a plot to send the cats packing. But, he doesn't count on the wily and resourceful alley cat Thomas O'Malley coming to their rescue.

April Strelinger is excellent as Duchess, the mama cat who keeps a watchful eye on her brood. She's devoted to making sure they all are well mannered and polite, although they are constantly finding ways to get into mischief with one another. Ronan Ryan (Toulouse), Alex Meuret (Berlioz), and Maria Knasel (Marie) do very nice work as the kittens in her charge. David Schmittou is terrific and brimming with charm as Thomas O'Malley (he was also in the 2010 production), and he's aided in his efforts to return the cats to their home by Craig Blake (Scat Cat/Lafayette), Erik Keiser (Wacky Cat/Napoleon), and Stephen Barnowski (Hep Cat/Vichy). John Flack is properly villainous as the scheming butler, Edgar, and Michelle Burdette Elmore displays a sense of genuine concern as Madame. She also plays Amelia, who along with Abigail (Laurie McConnell), portray daffy geese who come to the aid of O'Malley when he finds himself immersed in water, and struggling to escape. McConnell is also quite good as the squeaky Roquefort, a brave little mouse who asks the alley cats for help.

Michael Hamilton directs and stages this treat with considerable aplomb. The performances are all very well done, and the music is a delight (music & lyrics by Richard and Robert Sherman, Al Rinker, Floyd Huddelston, Terry Gilkyson, with additional material by Bryan Louiselle). Justin Smolik does a splendid job with the musical direction, and Ellen Isom makes the choreography neatly fit the smaller confines. Garth Dunbar's costumes are simply adorable for the animals, and a perfect fit for the human characters. James Wolk's scenic design features some really cool paintings of cats as if they were painted by Picasso, Van Gogh, etc,. as well some nicely changeable backgrounds, and Matthew McCarthy's lighting keeps the action clearly in focus.

With a catchy score (especially"Thomas O'Malley Cat" and Ev'rybody Wants to be a Cat") and sharp performances, this is a great show every kid should have the chance to enjoy. And, with it running through June 28, 2015, they certainly have the opportunity. So get out to the West Playhouse and be thoroughly entertained by Stages St. Louis' current production of The Aristocats.

Photo credit: Peter Wochniak


Winners Revealed For The St. Louis High School Musical Theatre Awards Photo
Winners Revealed For The St. Louis High School Musical Theatre Awards

The St. Louis High School Musical Theatre Awards winners were announced Friday, May 26 at the Fabulous Fox Theatre.

Interview: Luis Salgado of AIDA at STAGES St. Louis In The Ross Family Theater At The Kirk Photo
Interview: Luis Salgado of AIDA at STAGES St. Louis In The Ross Family Theater At The Kirkwood Performing Arts Center

Last year, Luis Salgado directed and choreographed IN THE HEIGHTS at STAGES St. Louis. It was among the most critically acclaimed productions of the year in St. Louis. His production was recognized with 11 St. Louis Critics Circle nominations and six wins including Outstanding Production, Outstanding Ensemble and Outstanding Choreography. This year, Salgado returns to STAGES St. Louis to direct and choreograph AIDA which opens on Wednesday, June 7th in the Ross Family Theatre at the Kirkwood Performing Arts Center. Broadway World had the opportunity to sit down today to talk with Salgado about the production, his creative team, and who has influenced him to become the powerhouse director and choreographer he has become.

Review: A FUNNY THING HAPPENED ON THE WAY TO THE FORUM at The Marcelle Theatre Photo

New Line Theatre’s production of A FUNNY THING HAPPENS ON THE WAY TO THE FORUM succeeds due to Scott Miller’s directorial vision and the comedic timing of Miller’s strong cast. There are plenty of laughs in the First Act, but the second act builds to a crescendo of complete hilarity. Miller’s blocking and the actors’ execution of  the Second Act chase scene is downright madcap. Ann Hier Brown’s delivery of “That Dirty Old Man,” Kent Coffel and Chris Moore’s delivery of “Lovely,” and the Company’s collaboration on “Funeral Sequence” keeps the audience laughing nonstop following the intermission. The remaining cast Jason Blackburn, Danny Brown, Gary Cox, Robert Doyle, Nathan Hakenewerth, Brittany Kohl Hester, Aarin Kamphoefner, Ian McCreary and Sarah Wilkinson rely on their deadpan delivery and comedic timing to deliver big laughs throughout the show.

Review: GLORIA: A LIFE at Wool Sutdio Theatre Photo
Review: GLORIA: A LIFE at Wool Sutdio Theatre

Jenni Ryan gives a magnificent performance as Steinem. She paints Steinem with human vulnerability. Her characterization elicits audience empathy as she exposes the incertitude Steinem experienced in her early work. Ryan illustrates Steinem finding her voice and ultimately demonstrates Steinem’s maturation to a confident activist who raises issues without fear. It is commendable that Ryan stepped into the role just a week before opening night due to a last-minute casting change and delivered a solid performance.

From This Author - Chris Gibson


#repshow# in[i]# Gloria: A Life
The J's Wool Studio Theatre (6/01-6/18)
#repshow# in[i]# The Nerd
Moonstone Theatre Company (7/06-7/23)
#repshow# in[i]# Vampire Lesbians of Sodom
Stray Dog Theatre (6/08-6/24)
#repshow# in[i]# A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum
New Line Theatre at the Marcelle (6/01-6/24)
#repshow# in[i]# The Years
The Chapel (7/13-7/29)
#repshow# in[i]# Twelfth Night
St. Louis Shakespeare Festival (5/31-6/25)

Recommended For You