A circus of performing housecats is, of course, catnip to children, and quite a few little ones showed up at the normally louche AllWays Theatre this week for The Amazing Acro-Cats
, an hour-long revue that demonstrates that cats can
be trained — but demonstrates even more conclusively that they can't be taught much.
Tiny tots with their eyes all aglow were quick-marched through the bar and into the theater at the AllWays, where The Amazing Acro-Cats were making a return holiday appearance in New Orleans. Last year, trainer Samantha Martin and her cat pack performed at the much smaller Shadowbox Theatre, but this year she brought her cat bus to town for an extended run (three weeks) in the larger environs of the AllWays. (Friday's night's show was standing room only.)
The show was identical to last year's spectacle. Martin warmed up the audience with a few feline introductions — this is Pudge, this is Oz, this is Sookie, etc. Each cat drew an extended awwwww
from the crowd. Children were greatly outnumbered by (how to put this delicately?) people who are really, really into cats
. There was also a bit of tightrope walking by several rats, a groundhog that didn't really do anything and a chicken named Cluck Norris.
The expectations for performing cats are quite a bit lower than those for performing dogs. A border collie can be trained to run an obstacle course, dance on its hind legs, find objects and probably even unload a dishwasher. The Acro-Cats' talents were more modest: scampering across a tightrope, jumping from platform to platform and ringing a bell. The last was the particular specialty of the show's star, a white cat named Tuna, who rang a hotel front-desk bell and a cowbell with equal enthusiasm (not much). Like the other Acro-Cats, Tuna was motivated by an endless stream of treats produced by trainer Samantha Martin and her assistant. And, like the other cats, Tuna's best trick was rushing back to her cage when an assistant blew a whistle — all the cats had that one down pat.
Cats jumped through hoops. A cat pushed a miniature shopping cart. Another cat grabbed a rope, unfurling a large APPLAUSE sign. Several cats got bored doing their tricks and wandered out into the audience. The show's finale was a performance by "The Rock Cats." A stage-within-the-stage had been set up with a small guitar, drums and keyboard, and various cats sat on the instruments, plunking out music. Or not. (The tickets had promised "seasonal carol selections such as 'A Cat in a Manger' and 'Catnip Roasting on an Open Fire,'' neither of which materialized.)
When the show was over, the audience stormed the stage for the "meow-t and greet," snapping photos with the cats, while Martin's assistant pleaded with children, "No, honey, don't touch the kitty. He might not like that. You can pet Pudge."
In the front row, two older ladies in Christmas gem sweaters shared a hug. "Thank you," one of them told the other. "This was the best present ever
— The Amazing Acro-Cats are at AllWays Lounge through Dec. 20, with one show Wed.-Thu., two shows on Fridays and three shows on Saturdays and Sundays. Tickets are $18 for adults, $15 for children.