When ‘Garfield’ Became a Hit Musical

Because his introduction in 1978, the comic strip cat Garfield has lived well in extra of 9 lives—as a newspaper staple as a automobile window accessory as the subject matter of aquatic intrigue, with dozens of Garfield phones mysteriously washing ashore in France as the mascot of a now-shuttered Toronto cafe, GarfieldEATS, which inevitably served lasagna and as a characteristic film star, with a new animated adaptation coming that includes the voices of Chris Pratt as Garfield and Samuel L. Jackson as his father, Vic.

But what Garfield creator Jim Davis desired a lot more than anything—more than automobile decorations, far more than flicks, extra than feline-formed pizza—was to see his sedentary cat come to life on stage, a great deal in the very same way Charles Schulz had as soon as found his Peanuts ensemble strike Broadway.

In 2015, Davis obtained his chance. Garfield: The Musical With Cattitude premiered. And with apologies to those people secret telephones and Garfield frappuccinos, it was very easily the cat’s most surreal look however.


Extensive right before he conceived of Garfield, Davis—who was born in Marion, Indiana, in 1945—had types on the theater. Davis’s substantial faculty prep drama instructor experienced when taught James Dean, and Davis used his high school several years toiling on stage productions. Soon after college, he immersed himself in group theater, portray sets and directing. At the time he began working on Garfield, Davis started out to visualize what the cat might search like on the phase, with the cartoonist satisfying almost each individual job.

As Garfield’s reputation grew, the character came to have a presence in virtually each aspect of well-known culture—from multimillion-dollar licensing ventures to characteristic films to going through meta-examination with the internet’s Garfield Minus Garfield, a surrealist get on the strip in which Garfield is deleted and the supporting figures seemingly have psychotic breaks in vacant panels.

Via it all, Davis continued to harbor hope that he could a single day blend the legendary character with his adore of musical theater. The 1st prospect arrived in 2010 in Davis’s university town of Muncie, when songwriters Michael Dansicker and William Meade created 14 tracks for Garfield Reside!, a rhythmic celebration of the character that Davis wrote the book for and hoped to see debut in January 2011.

It wouldn’t be the to start with time a comic strip moved from the website page to the phase. In 1967, producers Arthur Whitelaw and Gene Persson brought You are a Fantastic Person, Charlie Brown to the stage, an adaptation with an all-grownup forged that sooner or later designed it to Broadway. The exhibit experienced Schulz’s blessing, but not his resourceful involvement. (His only ask for was that it be a family-pleasant show.) Garfield Reside! would mark the 1st time a comic strip creator would be immediately involved adapting their perform for the stage.

Odie is pictured

Odie in human form. / Courtesy of The Kid’s Theatre of Cincinnati

“Even while he’s lazy and loves his daily life at house, he harbors these fantasies of getting to be an entertainer,” Davis instructed Playbill in 2010. “He miracles, ‘What if I took my act on the street?’ So he falls out of his have comedian strip and goes on an adventure though other comedian strips. One’s a Disneyesque point with cute figures. One’s an action strip, type of a … western. An additional a single is sort of a West Facet Story matter among cats and canine.

“Garfield’s likely to be knocking down the fourth wall, as he does in the comedian strip, and he is absolutely likely to be having advantage of that in a theatrical presentation,” Davis continued. “I call it an aged-fashioned household e-book musical—with technology.”

The gimmick of the exhibit was intriguing: As the action unfolded on phase, a cartoonist would be sketching backgrounds that would be projected on a screen.

As Davis later on explained, the undertaking was set to be a nationwide touring clearly show, but the company backing it was undercapitalized: The lights hardly ever went up. When an entirely new established of producers approached him about seeking once again, Davis was understandably hesitant.


Davis’s other option for a stage generation was Michael J. Bobbitt, who proposed bringing a distinct Garfield musical to his residence base in the Washington, D.C. spot. Garfield, Bobbitt thought, was perfect for the several spouse and children-pleasant theaters in the location.

But Davis said no—twice. When he at last did relent, he was keen to assist co-generate the e book. (John L. Cornelius II offered music Nick Olcott directed.) “We despatched it back and forth for, I’d say, 9 months,” Davis told The Washington Post. “He would say, ‘That’s a whole lot of Garfield, and a minor theater.’ And I then I’d say, ‘That’s a whole lot of theater and a tiny Garfield.’ But the guide seriously is genuine to the rhythms, and it has the action that is good for theater.”

For his part, Bobbitt reported he immersed himself in all things Garfield, like the comedian strip collections. Although he was already a fan, he was surprised to understand that Davis considers the character proficiently a teenager of about 16. (Bobbitt initially had him pegged as a surly 45.)

Davis’s other most important stage of contention was in portraying Odie, the dimwitted canine co-occupant of Garfield’s household. Bobbitt envisioned Odie singing and monologuing Davis informed him Odie is not actually anthropomorphic.

The plot consists of Garfield acquiring an underwhelming birthday in which everyone—owner Jon, frenemies Odie and Nermal—seems to have forgotten his significant working day. When he feels underappreciated, he runs absent from property and will get into a collection of adventures, some of which contain Arlene, the comic strip feline with a crush on the orange tabby. (In one particular these kinds of scene, Davis told a Put up reporter that the “sexual tension” created the humor. He was just about undoubtedly joking.)

Garfield: The Musical With Cattitude opened on June 19, 2015 at the Journey Theatre in Maryland’s Glen Echo Park. Evan Casey played Garfield in anything of a mascot’s plush costume, with his (human) deal with uncovered. (The hybrid guy-cat isn’t these kinds of a stretch: Garfield is drawn with human-sized hind feet.) But following working “away”—and into an alley—Garfield learns he misses the creature comforts of house.

Davis’s hopes for a practical Garfield musical were eventually recognized: Cattitude has given that been picked up for licensing and is continue to routinely mounted by regional theater troupes like The Children’s Theatre of Cincinnati. And indeed, the play requires area on Garfield’s the very least favourite working day of the week. The tabby’s opening number? “I Detest Mondays.”

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