Puss in Boots | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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Puss in Boots

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Puss in Boots, Lifeline Theatre. You may remember the fairy tale: a father divides his property among his three sons, leaving the third only a donkey, a cow, and a talking cat. The cat (played here with sharp cheerfulness by Jill Stephens) demands a pair of boots and through his cleverness wins his master a title, a castle, and a princess.

But in Guy J. Jackson's quirky retelling for Lifeline's KidSeries, the cat's goal is to better himself: he learns to speak by reading a book called "How to Speak Human"; he wins the princess by tutoring a fluttery ostrich (Nancy Jane Nelson) in mathematics; and he plays a mean fiddle. He also learns a subtle lesson about using others for one's own ends. At only 50 minutes this show is swift and charming, keeping the rapt attention of adults as well as the four- to nine-year-olds for whom it's intended. Paul Gilvary's perky original tunes and lyrics stress the power of friendship and hope.

One only wishes that Jackson or director Shole Milos had changed Alfred the cat into Alfreda. With the exception of the airheaded female ostrich, the two men and two women of the ensemble all play multiple male characters. Surely the many girls in the audience deserved to see resourceful females onstage and not just that ineffective bird and a wheeled mannequin representing the princess.

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