BWW Review: A 'PAWSITIVELY' ADORABLE PERFORMANCE OF THE ARISTOCATS KIDS at Straz Performing Arts Center' TECO Theatre
I was told by director Sarah Berland that the 26 young actors starring in The Aristocats KIDS did not want to put on a kids' show, rather a professional performance that had child actors. After seeing opening night's performance, I will go one step further than that - these are 26 mini-adults masquerading in the bodies of actors that just happen to be no older than 10.
Were there a couple mic tech issues that were immediately brought under control, yes, but these children handled it like the professionals they were. I've seen adults perform with less fluidity.
Complimented by a beautiful easily-interchangeable set, each of the 26 were charismatic, sometimes over-the-top goofy, fun-to-watch actors, singers and dancers who brilliantly told the tale of the fumbling butler who kidnaps the Aristocats and the animals that help to reunite the family.
Costume clothing designed by Camille McClellan and coordinated by Gaby Belknap, paired with hats with ears for cats, dogs and a mouse, and bonnets for geese were enough to give the illusion of animals without hiding the personalities of the children.
And a special call out to Alondra Rios, Emma and Sofia Oros and assistant stage manager, Isabella Falber for beautiful stage makeup that further brought the story to life. The kids' facial expressions were priceless!
Actor Hannah Carey was senior-citizen beauty and grace as the beloved Madame Bonfamille, owner of the Aristocats.
Korban Quillian stole the show as the bumbling jealous butler Edgar who will do anything to rid himself of the sneeze-inducing Duchess and her kittens. His response to the kittens being left everything in Madame's will - What? What! WHAT!!!! - had the audience rolling in aisles, but that happened any time he was on stage.
Bianca Ten Caten Settle, in a beautiful white lace gown and matching hair bow, was the picture of elegance, a perfect loving mother to her three kittens, rough and tumble Toulouse (Antony Simonetti) and Berlioz (Angel Vasquez), and girl-powered Marie (Arielle Black-Diamond).
Roquefort (Charlie Bern) was adorable as the mouse who fell asleep in the cats' tainted milk bowl, who swallowed his fear of wild alley cats to approach them to save his friends, Duchess and the kittens.
Seth Barack was the perfect embodiment of the hip alley cat leader Thomas O'Malley. His reaction to discovering Duchess had the three kittens had the audience in stitches. His cool pack of jazz cats were fun to watch. Standouts were Scat Cat (Scarlett Burleson) and "Crazy man, crazy" Hep Cat (Alyssa Black-Diamond).
Napoleon (Gian Simonetti) and the Pups were perfectly in tune and I loved the song Use Your Nose.
And one cannot mention the other animals without talking about the geese. Maya Rapson and Anna Lilly Woodward made me and the audience laugh out loud at their comedic antics, wing flaps and bustle waggles.
The voices and dance numbers were on point. The comic bits and physical comedy spot on and much like the milk the butler used to dose the Aristocats family - the audiences lapped it up. And so will you. To copy directly from the Director's Note in the program... I'm pawsitive you will enjoy this special feel-good show.
Disney's The Aristocats is in the TECO Theater through Feb. 18. Performances are Friday at 7 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday at 1 and 4 p.m. Regularly priced tickets start at $15 and may be purchased by calling 813.229.7827, in person at the Straz Center Ticket Office or online at www.strazcenter.org.