When a swashbuckling Puss in Boots, voiced by Antonio Banderas, showed up in "Shrek 2" and stole the show with his sultry Spanish accent and really big eyes, a star was born. However, the "Puss in Boots" animated film that followed had absolutely nothing to do with the original European fairy tale.
The original adaptation of "Puss in Boots," written and developed by the Duluth Playhouse's Theatre for Young Audiences ensemble that opened Saturday afternoon at the Depot Theatre is faithful to that original tale (or should that be "tail"?).
The life-sized Puss in the lobby with the face cut outs so kiddies can have their pictures taken is clearly the Puss in Boots from the movies, so when Puss appears on stage in a rather charming costume recreation of the screen version, we are not surprised at all that there is a Spanish lilt to his voice.
Jacob Lindig, who previously played the title role in TYA's "The Cat in Hat," functions as the story's narrator and also got the kiddies revved up with his curtain speech. From start to finish he had the audience in the palm of his paw.
The basic story is that Chuck, the Miller's son, inherits a cat who happens to talk. Chuck provides Puss with boots (and a hat and belt), and Puss sets out to help Chuck get a job dancing and a princess (not necessarily in that order).
One of the hallmarks of these shows are the interactions between characters and audience. As Chuck, Ted Webster tried to get the audience to come up with a job he could do. Chuck wanted to be a dancer and so that is exactly what the kids thought he should do, which is rather sweet.
As the gruff and grumpy king, Jessie Davis has some nice moments interacting with the kiddies. Shayna Callie plays his daughter, Trina the Pop Princess, who needs a backup dancing for her upcoming tour and gets most of the kids to audition for her.
Ben Peters trots out different wacky accents and costumes to play Putricia, the Junk Seller, and the Field Worker, that last one involving some silly slapstick. Keely Waechter plays Salmonelia and Manilla, the King's servant, underscoring that more women play important roles this time around.
The signature TYA puppets were, with one exception, smaller than usual. The fishes and the partridges were cute, but the Ogre (voiced by Christian Van Orsdel), really should have a head bigger than his hands.
In addition to character names that fly over the heads of the small fry, the script is littered with references to things like "The Safety Dance," "scrolling," and Andrew Lloyd Webber than only parents and grandparents are going to get.
There are a couple of moments where exchanges between characters started to run a bit long, but each time there was another opportunity for kids to shout out instructions or sing "Meow" when cued by Puss.
The best interactions come after the show, when the kids get to meet the cast.
If you go
What: The Theatre for Young Audience presents "Puss in Boots".
When: 1 p.m. & 4 p.m. Saturdays; 2 p.m. Sundays through Feb. 3.
Where: Duluth Depot stage, 506 W. Michigan St.
How much: $17 for adults, $15 for youth/students.