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Tom's Cat 

A musical about felines that boasts unexpected layers and killer tunes

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Normally I might not care for a show called Lovesick: The Cat Allergy Musical, for reasons that are clear from the title, which is in no way ironic or even slightly deceptive. A musical about a cat? I'm amazed I made it through the door.

But my expectations were quickly shattered. First, there's Lucky the cat, played by a swarthy fellow with a goatee and sideburns and a marked resemblance to Tom Jones, which is no accident of birth -- the actor is Steffanos X, frontman for the band Tom Jonesing. The genius of the casting hits you during "Alphamale," an early number about the cat being an asshole. Steffanos commands the stage, crooning manfully to the audience, totally at ease and completely in charge while wearing a cat suit.

Then there are the fine songs, which are "musical" to be sure (and distinctly Grease-like at times), but tweaked by an atmospheric guitar doling out a somber, Wild at Heart, speeding-through-Texas-at-midnight spookiness, with a few surprising echoes of Nick Cave. I checked the program: music and lyrics by Jim Fourniadis, who fronts the punk band Rats of Unusual Size and cites Zappa and Fear as influences. Clearly, this cat musical has unexpected layers. Jim himself sits behind the bar, ax in hand, belting out the songs as well as the delightful pre-production noodling.

Pamela Holm, the playwright, says she wrote Lovesick as a lark. "Truthfully I wanted to write something silly purely for the joy of doing it," Holm says. "I wrote the musical as a reprieve from sitting in a room alone for the past four years writing two books back to back." As such, Lovesick is a bit rough around the edges, a comedy about a love-starved woman that could benefit from a few more killer jokes, but for a novelist slumming between books, it's a welcome treat, and surely the best cat musical you'll ever come across in the Mission. -- Michael Leaverton

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