Barnum and Bailey step aside — and take your big, fierce cats with you. The Acro-Cats recently thrilled audiences at the Shadowbox Theatre. Now, these domestic felines don't throw anyone into a panic when they prowl the stage, but they are willful. Cats are famously impervious to training and cooperation of any kind. And part of the fun of this show was when one of the performers decided not to perform.
The small stage was crowded with miniature circus apparatus. Ringmaster Samantha White, wearing a black, long-tailed tux with purple satin lapels and kitty ears, directed the action. Tuna, a white, four-legged diva, was the unchallenged star, and she kicked off the show by turning on a light and unfolding a sign calling for applause.
Watching cats perform is entertaining in itself, but original stunts kept the show lively. A cat on a skateboard rolled down a ramp with great aplomb. One kitty entered, pushing a miniature supermarket cart stuffed with who knows what. More conventional tricks included a cat crossing a tube from end to end and hanging upside down. And there were various leaps from raised platforms to other raised platforms. One cat clawed up a very tall pole to a tiny platform and then leapt onto White's back.
Most of these cats are rescued animals. Pudge was found in a box by the side of a road. Others came from shelters. White, who hails from Chicago, says all these cats live with her and adds, "I'm not married."
For her main act, Tuna whizzed through various challenges: jumping through hoops and over hurdles. Finally, she faced a chicken in a bowling contest. The chicken shamed her and then shamed her even worse in a bell-ringing contest.
The climax of the show featured a five-piece band consisting of guitar, drums, keyboard, tambourine and cowbell — all played by cats, except the tambourine which the chicken plucked at industriously.
"This next song is going to sound a lot like the last," White announced as the show ended, "It's all original material." — Dalt Wonk