A bad cat can teach a few good lessons. And youngsters can learn them here and meow.

Actor Ryan Chavez Richmond hopes youngsters get at least a whisker of that idea when he and his three castmates from The Children’s Theatre of Cincinnati present a live version of the Dr. Seuss classic, “The Cat in the Hat,” at 6 p.m. Jan. 5 at The Commons, 300 Washington St. in downtown Columbus. The free production is part of the popular Columbus Area Arts Council series, Old National Bank’s First Fridays For Families, that frequently draws 300-plus people.

Richmond, who plays the whimsically-hatted street kitty who wanders into the home of two children after their mother leaves, hopes to offer some gentle purr-suasion to his young audience.

“As an artist, I don’t believe in being bored,” Richmond said, referring to the two rainy-day children in the show. “I would like the kids to take away the idea that, as long as you have an imagination, you have no excuse to be bored.

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“Ideally, I want to see kids put down the iPad and go play and build something.”

Yet, in the production, as in the book, the children lean on the feline for inspiration and fun.

”I know some good games we could play,” said the cat.

“I know some new tricks,”

Said the Cat in the Hat.

“A lot of good tricks.

I will show them to you.

Your mother will not mind at all if I do.”

The actor includes a few balancing tricks of his own during the show.

“At first, it felt like I was rehearsing 40 minutes of the Barnum and Bailey Circus,” Richmond said of a few of his stunts that initially ended in harmless falls. “It’s crazy. But we have it down pretty well now.”

Richmond also rides a bike during the show. He had heard that some youngsters were frightened by the pasty, ghostly makeup of actor-cat Mike Meyers in the 2003 film version of the story.

“Before our rehearsals started, I re-read as much Dr. Seuss as I possibly could,” said Richmond, a former elementary school drama teacher for 12 years. “The illustrations are so great. So, what I tried to do was to kind of recreate some of those images from the book onstage.

“And I try to play him as mysterious-yet-charming. We certainly don’t want to scare anyone.”

The post-performance reaction from little ones proves that they’re anything but frightened.

“After the show, every kid wants to come up and pull my tail, pull on my whiskers and try on my hat,” Richmond said.

Look what the cat drug in

What: The Children’s Theatre of Cincinnati presenting the Dr. Suess story “The Cat in the Hat” as part of the Old National Bank First Fridays for Families series.

When: 6 p.m. Jan. 5. Followed by a question-and-answer session afterward.

Where: The Commons, 300 Washngton St. in downtown Columbus.

Admission: Free.

Information: artsincolumbus.org.

Author photo
Brian Blair is a reporter for The Republic. He can be reached at bblair@therepublic.com or 812-379-5672.