The Amazing Acro-Cats was one of the most fun live shows I have ever been to. When they come to a city near you, you should go.
You don’t need to keep reading.
Seriously, you can go read something else now.
Alright, if you insist.
Operated by Samantha Martin of her organization Rock Cats Rescue, the Amazing Acro-Cats is the only trained cat show in the country and possibly the world. And I believe this statement. Martin is the only person passionate, patient and insane enough to not only train cats but have them perform in a show. They were at Madison's Bartell Theater several months ago now, but if anyone has the patience to wait a little while for expectations to be delivered, it will be the Acro-Cats.
A trained cat show is exactly what you would expect. Her cats, all rescues, are not magically dog-like in desire and ability to follow the directions of their trainer. Oz, Martin’s oldest member of the show at 15 years old, looked at her absolutely puzzled as she instructed him to leap from one stool to another. She quipped that he had been studying that trick for all of those 15 years. The juxtaposition of Martin’s experience and brilliance with the cats’ bewilderment at her commands was the tone for the whole night.
The show opened with a reminder that the doors were to remain closed until the show ended because sometimes the performers wander off. One did. Even though any of the cats could meander the aisles on a given night, Jax, a calico and frequent offender, was the escapee of the evening. While some cats were amazingly compliant, Jax was very much not.
At one point, two cats performed with little hesitation: one sat in a miniature shopping cart while the other cat pushed the cart. It was incredible and hilarious. Jax, on the other hand, only knew one trick: sitting on a Halloween decoration skull. About the size of a large pumpkin, they keep this skull on stage because they noticed it is the only place Jax will predictably sit. All this was shared as Martin lamented how Jax had the largest Instagram following of her cats despite Dixie, another calico, being a vastly more capable performer.
All the cats are hers. When the Acro-Cats aren’t on the road, they live at her house. All of the stools and other set pieces are her furniture. The show is hers as well. As fun as it is to watch cats do tricks when they feel like it, the show is nothing without her humor holding it together.
It’s easy to believe Martin when she says every show is different because of the unpredictability of working with cats. While telling her stories, Martin’s ability to improvise and keep the energy of the show flowing — often against the will of the cats — is what makes this show enjoyable and so special.
Of course, I have to mention the all-cat rock band the “Amazing Rockcats” that serves as the show’s finale. Repeating the command “Tuna, more cowbell” which instructs Tuna, a white cat, to hit her cowbell, Martin and her assistants placed a dozen or so cats on or in front of an instrument. The result is filled with more joyful silliness than words can describe.
As stated at the opening, The Amazing Acro-Cats is a can’t-miss event that is impossible to leave without a glowing smile. Unfortunately, I have to give them one out of five stars because I couldn’t keep any of the cats.
Jeffrey Brown is an Arts Editor for the Daily Cardinal. He also writes for the Beet.