(Review by  on DC Theater Scene)

Cats and chaos. That about sums up Garfield: The Musical with Cattitude.  And, it’s a splendid combination.

Full disclosure: As a child, my brother owned about 100 Garfield replicas—figurines, stuffed animals, and household objects (the Garfield phone—anyone remember that one?). And, as a good little sister, I supported his habit. So, I may be biased about this show, but what’s not to love about the woeful orange tabby that has a constant hankering for lasagna and hates Mondays?

Garfield (Evan Casey) awakens one morning to find that his birthday—the most important day ever—has fallen on a Monday. The horror. Add to that that no one—not Jon Arbuckle, his oblivious owner, not Odie, his stalwart canine companion, not Arlene, his perfectly pink lady-love, and not Nermal, his endearingly cute nemesis—seems to remember its his big day. Only Pooky, his beloved teddy, gets his disappointment.

Evan Casey as Garfield and Emily Zickler as Arlene. (Photo: Bruce Douglas)

In dramatic fashion, Garfield cuts his losses and leaves the comforts of home. He sets up camp—with Odie (John Sygar), Arlene (Emily Zickler), and Nermal (Eli Schulman) in tow—in an alley nearby, sure that the benefits of freedom will outshine his displeasure in his previous dwelling. But, the food is worse than cat food (it’s garbage), there is no TV, and animal control is always just around the corner. What ensues is a wild adventure where Garfield learns the value of love, friendship, and home. And, that birthday celebrations are best served as surprises.

Garfield packs a lot into one hour—a bit of romance, a Broadway-worthy musical performance (jazz hands, kick line, tap dance, a be-sequined top hat and bowtie), a birthday celebration, and a great escape. Kids will love the quick-wittedness of the snappy dialogue and the toe tapping musical numbers.

Adults, you’ll be reminded that long before the Internet brought us Grumpy Cat memes galore, there was Garfield. The original anthropomorphic feline: cynical, snarky, over-indulgent, and, let’s face it, a bit judge-y.

The show has some classic Garfield one-liners (“I’m not overweight; I’m under-tall” or “Fat chance”) and lets Garfield do plenty of pontificating. Since Jim Davis, Garfield’s creator, co-wrote the script, the beloved cartoon and his crew keep true to original form. That’s the best part of the show and what makes it genuinely enjoyable for kids and adults alike. Garfield has always had universal appeal and it is not lost here.

The set is cartoonish—sharp lines, bright colors, and exaggerated pieces create a comic land. It’s a perfect replica of Jim Davis’ drawings, while the costumes, too, depict his imagined world well. The tails are spot-on. Odie, Garfield, Arlene, and Nermal each have an appendage that defines their personality. Who knew that a tail was more than, well, just a tail?

Eli Schulman as Nermal, Evan Casey as Garfield, Emily Zickler as Arlene, and John Sygar as Odie. (Photo: Mike Horan)

John Sygar does a perfect Odie—overly joyous (as most dogs are), funny and understandable, though he largely “ruffs” his way through the show. His physical comedy is sublime. I’d like to see him play a human one day. Eli Schulman captures Nermal’s sweetness, naivety, and conceitedness perfectly, while Emily Zickler injects plucky Arlene with a straightforwardness that plays well off of Evan Casey’s acerbic Garfield. Joshua Dick, as Jon Arbuckle—the only non-furred character—is a funny, aloof Jon, blissfully unaware that his beloved cat considers him “staff” and criticizes his care-taking skills frequently.

Dick also doubles as an animal control officer in the show’s best sequence—a run-for-your-life chase where every cast member gets his moment to steal the stage and dance or mime his way into your heart.

The music is upbeat with clever lyrics and the choreography filled with classic moves.

Ticket Information:

Garfield: The Musical with Cattitude (1 hour, no intermission)

June 19 - August 23, 2015

Adventure Theatre MTC, 7300 MacArthur Blvd., Glen Echo, MD, 20812 in the historic Glen Echo Park

Cost: $19.50 each  (Group & field trip rates available)

Purchase through the Box Office by calling 301.634.2270 or online 

Children under the age of one are FREE!