"If you've read any of the interviews I've done over the years, they will say, 'Okay, where's Garfield going? Where do you want him to be?' And I will say, 'On stage.'"
And so it will be. Davis, having gotten a year-and-a-half ahead on his comic strip, is busily concocting the book for Garfield LIVE! — a big-arena touring show that will allow his orange, Everyman tabby cat to buck-and-wing to his heart's content.
Michael Dansicker and William Meade have created 14 songs (to date) for the project, and it will be directed and choreographed by Ray Roderick, who sent out the first national tour, and the recent U.K. tour, of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.
The liftoff is set for Jan. 18, 2011, in Muncie, IN. It's not unusual to take a show on the road, but Muncie? "That's where we live," says Davis. "We have Ball State University there. We have Emens Auditorium, nearly 3,000 seats. We have a theatre department. There's the Letterman building [named for the TV host who was a year behind Davis in school]. We'll be able to do publicity, promotion, everything there."
Davis has conjured up an elaborate escapade for Garfield's stage debut. "Even though he's lazy and loves his life at home, he harbors these fantasies of becoming an entertainer. He wonders, 'What if I took my act on the road?' So he falls out of his own comic strip and goes on an adventure though other comic strips. One's a Disneyesque thing with cute characters. One's an action strip, kind of a Fu western. Another one is kind of a West Side Story thing between cats and dogs.
"Garfield's going to be knocking down the fourth wall, as he does in the comic strip, and he's certainly going to be taking advantage of that in a theatrical presentation. I call it an old-fashioned family book musical — with technology."
Adds his wife, Jill: "Cartooning is going on while the show is going on." Unique to the show is an interactive projection screen that fills the back of the stage and serves as the platform for a live cartoonist. While audiences observe in real time, the cartoonist renders sets and backgrounds on the screen that complement the on-stage sets.
All this will be played out in large houses, like Washington's Warner Theatre. In New York, Radio City Music Hall is said to have the inside track.
— Harry Haun