Star-Bulletin Features

Friday, June 29, 2001

What's up pussycat? Students of Honoluiu Dance
Theatre soar in tale of "Puss in Boots."

These boots are
made for dancin’

By Scott Vogel

Once upon a time, in the days before cats received regular pedicures, and quite a few years before the Honolulu Dance Theatre even existed, there lived a poor miller who upon his death had nothing to leave his three children but his mill, a cat and an ass. It is therefore logical to infer that the miller had lost his ass in a bad business deal, but this has never been documented.

The youngest child, Jack, received the apparent booby prize -- the cat -- and was at the point of waxing poetic on the subject of birth order and its discontents when the cat whispered something into his ear, something to the effect of "you'll have nothing to worry about so long as you buy me a pair of boots."

To this day, no one knows why Puss needed a pair of boots for his exploits, particularly the thigh-high red go-go boots Puss wears in the Little Golden Book version of the story. At least one scholar has suggested that Puss might actually have asked for a "parachute" instead of a "pair of boots" and Jack misheard the request, owing to the difficulty of understanding a cat when it whispers. But again, the evidence for claims like this is scant, and as such only raises the further question of what possible use Puss could have had for a parachute.


Not long after receiving his boots, the heels of which were quite high (why a cat should require such fancy boots, especially in a story that purports to rail against vanity, is one of this fable's enduring mysteries), Puss set about the task of trapping rabbits as part of a plot to impress the king. In some versions of the story, Puss lures rabbits into a bag by placing some bran inside, which tells us firstly that these were definitely health-conscious rabbits, and secondly that though they died, they most likely died regular.

Soon Puss was impressing the king royally, so to speak, bringing him succulent partridges and lying about his master, claiming that young Jack was in fact the Marquis of Carabas and not a poor country jake whose sole inheritance consisted of a cat with a shoe fetish.

And so it came to pass that Puss orchestrated an accidentally-on-purpose meeting between the king and Jack when the latter was swimming nude in the river and the king and his daughter (who happened to be traveling with him), were persuaded that Jack was drowning. Notwithstanding his nakedness or perhaps because of it, the princess instantly fell in love with Jack, and as you can guess, it wasn't long before he had married the beautiful girl and claimed his rightful inheritance, all thanks to Puss and his talent for creative resumé-building.

In the years since Charles Perrault created "Puss in Boots," the fairytale has inspired countless adaptations, not least of which is this weekend's Honolulu Dance Theatre revival of a production directed and choreographed by Matthew Wright with Celia Chun in the title role. To Chun falls the task of teaching the kiddies the thoroughly amoral lesson that lying is always bad unless, like Puss, you're exceptionally good at it. And judging by reviews in years past, Chun is a feline phenom, capable of dancing while 1) buying boots from the corner cobbler, 2) calling for the king as her master "drowns," and 3) facing down an ogre who mysteriously rises from the Hawaii Theatre orchestra pit.

It's quite a prodigious feat for feet, but what kind of message are we sending our children? That you needn't always tell the truth? That even rich and beautiful princesses can be swayed by a man's endowment? That it's OK for boys to wear red go-go boots?

What would William Bennett say, for goodness sake?

Catching the cat

What: "Puss in Boots"
When: 7:30 p.m. tomorrow and 2 p.m. Sunday
Where: Hawaii Theatre
Cost: $16 to $24
Call: 528-0506

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