the cat of kensington
You may not be able to trust a cat with your fate, nowadays, but it seems clear that you can trust two time Dora Award winner Waylen Miki to write deliciously eloquent and charming songs about one. The Cat of Kensington, a musical for children, co-written by Miki, Kirsten Harvey and Shaun McComb plays at the Palmerston Library Theatre as part of Fringekids! in the Toronto Fringe Festival.
While this musical is primarily targeted toward children, the story and especially Miki’s sophisticated and memorable songs are sure to delight an audience of any age. The writing team refuses to speak down to their young audience, and still insures that the tale that they weave is interesting and clear enough to capture even the youngest child’s attention. Loosely based on Puss in Boots, the story centers around a poor, struggling artist, Addison, whose adoptive parents have forsaken him and left him with only a cat for company. The cat, clad in a coat, cap and boots, must use her power of speech to convince a rich art connoisseur to commission the artist before he gets evicted from his flat in Kensington Market.
Shaun McComb plays Addison as a lofty daydreamer, but also bit of a schmuck, who whirls around Kensington Market in a panic devoid of artistic inspiration. Daryl Pring channels a melodramatic cartoon villain by times in the creation of his pompous connoisseur, but allows for moments of vulnerability to peak continually through the facade. Kirsten Harvey is agile, alluring and poignant as Boots, the titular cat. She also has a distinctly gorgeous singing voice.
Miki’s songs are distinctly reminiscent of the work of Stephen Sondheim. They capture brilliantly the characters’ emotional journeys and they are simultaneously richly melodic and sprightly and playful. He has written a wondrous ode to Kensington Market, a true production number which Pring and Harvey execute with Broadway-style panache. Miki’s lyrics are wonderfully evocative, with each word and syllable meticulously chosen to capture the essence of the sights, sounds and smells of our distinctive market. There is also a fun cautionary tale anthem about trusting cats whose rhyming prowess rival Dr. Seuss, which Pring sings to great comic effect. My favourite song is a duet between the artist and the cat that centers on a fish oil elixir which is especially clever and features an incredible magical fish prop.
Shaun McComb’s direction of this production is absolutely wonderful. He makes good use of levels and great specificity and simplicity in the miming of objects and locations. Harvey’s physicality as the cat is precise and gives the illusion that she is able to, at any moment, leap at least two feet into the air.
In all, the writing team of The Cat of Kensington may find moralising quarrelsome in Kensington, but they do prove themselves to be artists of distinguishment and their play is pretty near purrrrfect for their audience’s hearts.
The Cat of Kensington plays at the Palmerston Library Theatre (560 Palmerston Avenue) at the following times.
Sun, July 4 5:30 PM
Mon, July 5 2:30 PM
Tue, July 6 3:45 PM
Wed, July 7 4:15 PM
Thu, July 8 12:45 PM
Fri, July 9 2:30 PM
Sun, July11 4:15 PM
all tickets $10 at the door or book in advance by calling the fringe hotline at 416.966.1062 or go online at http://www.fringetoronto.com.