Garfield, the chubby and sarcastic tabby cat, wants to have the best birthday ever.

Garfield, the chubby and sarcastic tabby cat, wants to have the best birthday ever.

But his friends, Arlene, Odie and Jon, and even his nemesis, Nermal, seem to have forgotten the special event.

Thus the stage is set for "Garfield: The Musical with Cattitude."

Garfield's birthday adventure, told through songs and dance performed by adult and children actors, runs through Sunday, March 11, at the Columbus Performing Arts Center, Van Fleet Theatre, 549 Franklin Ave. Tickets cost $15 for adults and $10 for children.

"Who doesn't love Garfield? The Musical with Cattitude transports the beloved tabby cat of cartoon fame into a kid-sized musical full of entertainment and lessons about the importance of family and friends," said Joe Bishara, CATCO producing director, in a press release. "Though created with kids of all ages in mind, Garfield presents a wonderful opportunity to introduce young children to theater."

Portraying Garfield is Ben Hartwig, a former CATCO acting apprentice who performed in "The Adventures of Tom Sawyer," "The Wolf Tales," "A Christmas Carol" and "Forever Plaid."

He also has performed in productions with Actors Theatre, Weathervane Playhouse and Evolution Theatre Company.

He is joined by Annie Huckaba as Arlene, Candice Kight as Odie and Nolan Thomaswick as Jon, all current CATCO art education apprentices for the 2017-18 season.

Huckaba, a former CATCO acting apprentice, recently appeared in the CATCO is Kids production of "Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Musical."

Other recent credits include swing-vocal captain in "It's a Wonderful Life" and "Dreamland Drive-In," both at Dollywood.

Kight, who recently appeared in the CATCO is Kids' production of "Daddy Long Legs" and "Madeline's Christmas," has performed with theater companies throughout Ohio.

Thomaswick recently appeared in CATCO is Kids' production of "Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Musical" and "Madeline's Christmas."

They are joined by Gahanna's Bailey Richmond, a fifth-grader at Royal Manor Elementary School, who will portray Nermal.

Her credits include performances at Star Performance Academy, State of the Art Productions and her school drama club.

Richmond said she's excited about her role, that of a kitten who likes to pick on Garfield and brag about himself.

"He's a very fun character," she said. "He's a very likable character but also annoying. Everyone but Garfield likes him."

Richmond said audiences would most enjoy the musical numbers.

"They're fun, outgoing and some have funny humor in them," she said.

Richmond said this is the first time she has played an animal on stage.

"It's different but fun," she said. "I like the fact that I get to go up and perform for people. That may be the highlight of their day. It might make them smile and make them happy."

Andrew Protopapas, CATCO and CATCO is Kids artist educator and a former acting apprentice at the theater, is directing this show.

To familiarize children with the play before they attend and enrich their experience afterward, parents can access CATCO is Kids' play guide for "Garfield: A Musical with Cattitude," with book by Michael J. Bobbitt and Jim Davis, and music and lyrics by John L. Cornelius II.

The guide can be found at:

Showtimes are 7:30 p.m. Friday, March 9; 1 and 2:30 p.m. Saturday, March 10, and Sunday, March 11.

CATCO and CATCO is Kids' 33rd season is sponsored by support from the Ohio Arts Council, which helps fund the theater with state tax dollars to encourage economic growth, education excellence and cultural enrichment for all Ohioans, and supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts.

For more information and remaining shows, visit