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Will My Kid Like ‘Cats?’ A Guide To Kid-Friendly Arts In San Diego

A photo from the 2019 touring production of

Photo by Matthew Murphy

Above: A photo from the 2019 touring production of "Cats."

There are so many things to consider before buying kids a theater ticket. Will they be bored and jiggly in their seat? Is it appropriate? How late will they be staying out? And most important, is the price worth the artistic and cultural education?

In this new KPBS/Arts feature, we take a look at artistic events from a family perspective, starting with the most classic of family musicals, "Cats."

'Cats'

When: Plays through Sunday, April 21

Best for ages: 8 and older

Where to park: If you can find a metered spot, remember they run until 8 p.m.; pay lots cost between $10 and $20, or reserve parking online for $8

What to wear: Nice theater outfits are fine, but dressing up as a cat is completely acceptable and encouraged

Running time: Two and a half hours, including one 15 minute intermission

Tickets and details: broadwaysd.com

Synopsis: "Cats" is an iconic musical by Andrew Lloyd Webber about a group of special Jellicle Cats that gather once a year. On this night, the wise Old Deuteronomy selects one cat from the tribe to be reborn into a new Jellicle life. The show is basically an introduction to the various different cats and their personalities ... at least, I think that's what it is? This show is notorious for not making a lot of sense.

What's actually going on? There's not much of a plot to follow, which could be good for kids who zone out or sneak in a short nap. There are long stretches where you really have no idea what's going on, thankfully you're almost constantly distracted by mesmerizing dance movements.

Why is "Cats" even famous? The song "Memory," made popular by Barbra Streisand, is from this musical. In the touring production, it's performed by Keri René Fuller as Grizabella, and it's one of the show's most heartfelt moments. "Cats" is also number four on the list of the 10 Longest-Running Broadway Shows ("The Phantom of the Opera" is number one).

Photo by Matthew Murphy

A 2019 photo of actor McGee Maddox as Rum Tug Tugger in "Cats."

Things kids will like: Rum Tum Tugger's whole over-the-top vibe; an early and unexpected tap number by Jennyanydots; Skimbleshanks, a railroad cat who will delight any kids going through a train phase; the magical Mister Mistoffelees, played by Tion Gaston, not only does tricks but is a phenomenal dancer.

Things kids might not like: The songs are not the catchiest; some of the cats are snoozers (looking at you Bustopher Jones); lots of confusion about why everyone hates Grizabella (apparently she left the Jellicle Tribe); Macavity makes the lights go out, and he's as close to a villain as you'll find (though, really he's more Goth).

What if we're running late? Honestly, the first act is nowhere near as exciting as the second. Act two has the better cats, the magic and the powerful version of "Memory." If you need to time out naps or activities, in this case, it's better to be late than leave early.

Buyer beware: Watch out for the souvenir stand, they sell cute cat ears and you may be roped into buying some.

Where to eat before the show: Don't rely on concessions, which only sells candy, cookies and sodas. Kid-friendly (and quick) options nearby are a Panera Bread at Horton Plaza and Tender Greens on Broadway. If you're running in just before the show, there's a hot dog cart right outside, but it's cash only.

Make it educational: "Cats" is based on a collection of poems by T.S. Eliot called "Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats," published in 1939. It's surprisingly easy to read, and you can find a version with illustrations by Edward Gorey.

So, will kids like "Cats?" A nonsensical plot, Spandex outfits, full-face makeup, grand dance numbers and fur? Of course, they will.

Photo by Matthew Murphy

A 2019 photo of the touring company of "Cats."

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