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Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Theater Mystery Charms Audiences

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

The setting: London, 1790

The principal characters: Cat Royal, age unknown; Mr. Sheridan, manager of the Theater Royal and Cat's indulgent guardian; Pedro, a young violinist; Johnny, a mysterious artist; Syd Fletcher, leader of Butcher Boy's street gang, and loyal friend of Cat's; Billy the Boil, rival gang leader, friend of no one.

Act 1: The scene opens on our heroine, young Cat (she doesn't know exactly how young or old she is, only that she was abandoned on the steps of the theater as an infant and, in an act of drunken kindness, was taken in by Mr. Sheridan), whose life is about to take a rather exciting turn. Leaving a rioting audience behind her, Cat slips out of the theater into the alleyway, where she overhears a conversation between Mr. Sheridan and his friend, Mr. Marchmont. Her eyes widen when Sheridan queries, "Do you have the diamond?" As she listens, she hears their plan to sneak the jewel in later that night. Before she has a chance to slink away, Cat is discovered. Knowing her to be loyal, Mr. Sheridan asks her to keep an eye out for would-be theives. She agrees, although she still can't quite grasp how the theater manager, a man of very modest means, could have acquired such a priceless treasure.

The diamond is not the only novelty in the theater. First, a new prompter arrives. Cat's quite taken with kind Johnny, although she suspects he's hiding a secret from her. Before she really has a chance to contemplate the mystery, a young violinist makes his debut. Although his dark, African skin earns Pedro Hawkins contempt from some of the theater's staff, his musical genius charms the lot. He and Cat become quick friends. Determined to keep Pedro from certain death on the gritty London streets, Cat introduces him to her buddy, Syd Fletcher. The butcher's son, Syd runs the gang that keeps Billy "Boil" Shepherd and his boys in check. Soon, Pedro's hanging with Syd's club, although Cat's still forbidden to join because she's a girl. Also new at the theater are Francis and Elizabeth, a young lord and lady who find Cat and her adventures thrilling. The four - Cat, Pedro, Francis and Elizabeth - unite as friends and partners in crime, so to speak.

[Lights Fade. End of Act 1.]

Act 2: The curtain opens to great chaos in the Theater Royal. Word of the diamond has spread, and Cat is finding suspected thieves around every corner. Everyone covets the jewel, and it's up to her to keep it safe. When she catches a good friend rooting around for the diamond, it cuts her to the quick - Is there no one she can trust? Billy the Boil wants it as much - or more - than anyone else, and he doesn't mind hurting Cat in the process. Turns out, the diamond is not the only thing hiding at the theater that needs protecting - Johnny's secret could get him hanged. Meanwhile, Cat and Pedro have gotten Francis and Elizabeth involved, which could mean trouble for them all. It's up to Cat to protect the diamond, keep Johnny from the gallows, and save her own skin from the blade of Billy's knife. Can she manage it all before the curtain closes?

[Lights fade. End of Act 2]

Critic's remarks: While the plot gets complicated at times, The Diamond of Drury Lane races toward its conclusion, spewing plenty of mystery and intrigue along the way. Sparkling performances by Cat Royal and her players bring the script to life, delighting the audience with adventure and derring-do. Perhaps a bit overlong, the piece still manages to charm. It receives a solid B from this reviewer.

For more information on Cat Royal and her creator, check out Julia Golding's website and blog.


  1. You've beat me to a children's book Susan! I've never heard of this one, but it sounds great.

  2. No way! I can't believe I found this one before you did. The funny thing is I thought I first saw it featured on your blog. Must have been someone else's ... This one was a Cybils nominee, though. I should also mention that it's the first in a series, although I'm not sure if there are sequels out yet or not.


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