Killing the Cat (Riverside Studios)

Posted: March 24, 2023 in Theatre

Photo: Danny Kaan

Book and lyrics: Warner Brown

Music: Joshua Schmidt

Director: Jenny Easton

⭐️⭐️⭐️

The theory that opposites attract is put to the test rigorously in Killing the Cat, a new chamber musical that is receiving its world premiere at Riverside Studios prior to a planned Off-Broadway run. 

Madalena Alberto plays Maggie, an American scientist and author who has written a best seller which offers scientific explanations for all life’s mysteries. In order to escape from the widespread recognition that her newly found fame has brought, her friend Sheila (Kluana Saunders) invites her to join her on a holiday to Livorno. There she meets and falls for Luke (Tim Rogers), a man whose devout religious beliefs contradict everything that Maggie advocates.

This central relationship is mirrored by that of another holidaying couple, Heather (Molly Lynch), who is passionate about the romantic poets and all forms of art and the culturally sceptical Connor (Joaquin Pedro Valdes). Amid Italian sunshine and beauty, the scene is set for profound debates which set reason against religion, rationality against romance and cold logic against instinctive emotions.

Throughout a first act of flirtations and deceptions, it seems that the plot of a routine romcom could be hiding beneath the blanket of the show’s highbrow pretensions, struggling to come out. Lee Newby’s all white set design represents stone steps leading up to Roman arches and the three hard-working band members are also dressed all in white, as if it is camouflage. All this gives a sterile look to director Jenny Easton’s production, which always errs in the direction of taking itself too seriously.

The supremacy of discord over harmony in the narrative is reflected in Joshua Schmidt’s score, which is sung and played with great confidence. Generally, the music is easy on the ears, but stand-out moments of the type on which hit musicals thrive do not materialise.

It is brave and ambitious to attempt to incorporate philosophical arguments into the book and lyrics of a musical, but Warns Brown rises to the challenge admirably. It is deep into the second act before the quest to find the meaning of life becomes too weighty and we stop caring about the characters and their relationships. Eventually, there is a temptation to shout to everyone on stage: “lighten up a bit”.

Killing the Cat is a curiosity. At this stage, it feels like a work in progress and more time should help it to blend together its elements more smoothly. Eight more lives remain.

Performance date: 22 March 2023

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