Five-foot-tall cats flipped, skipped and leapt through the aisles of the Balk Café at Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital.
Children giggled as they watched the cats’ antics, which kept them entertained while they waited to watch the production of “The Cat in the Hat.”
Then, came a loud knocking sound. The kids, some in wheelchairs and others hooked to IV poles, looked around and whispered to their parents and caregivers, “Who is that?”
That is the Cat. The big one. The one with a striped hat, who likes to rhyme.
The production, put on by The Grand Rapids Civic Theatre, turned the Balk Café into a lively and magical theater. Spectators witnessed the transformation two characters experience as a rainy day at home becomes an unexpected afternoon full of adventure and excitement with The Cat in the Hat.
The event allowed patients and their families at Spectrum Health Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital an opportunity to escape for an hour to enjoy the mischievous tricks the Cat had in mind.
Children showed off their dance moves and clapped along with various banjo, electric guitar and piano tunes played by the Cat. The scene left all children grinning from ear to ear and giggling.
Next, the interactive rhymes and storyline encouraged kids to enthusiastically chime in and be part of the production.
Six-year-old Riley Hoffman proudly finished the rhymes for the narrator.
At one point in the play, Riley grimaced and shouted, “Are you OK?” as the Cat fell in slow motion.
The Cat had attempted to balance an angry pet fish, a cake, a cup of water and three books on one foot while on top of a giant ball. Children intently watched the unfolding drama with absolute suspense.
Riley seemed to enjoy the comedic aspect of it the most, as he exclaimed and interacted with the Cat.
“The Cat and the Hat” is the first play Riley has attended at the children’s hospital, but his mom, Amber Winters, says he will likely be back for more.
Riley has battled leukemia since 2013, and seeing this production brought a smile to his face. When asked about his favorite characters, Riley shared that the Cat reminded him of his two cats, Aria and Chevy, who he loves.
Allyson Paris, associate director of the Grand Rapids Civic Theater, said the performance meets the group’s mission of enriching children with educational, engaging content.
“It’s such a perfect fulfillment of the mission—bringing theater to people who otherwise could not make it,” she said.