Off the top of your head, what was playing on Broadway in 1982? Some of you may not have even been born. Here’s a quick answer: Master Harold … and the Boys, Torch Song Trilogy, Agnes of God, Pump Boys and Dinettes, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, and, among others, CATS. That same musical by Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber based upon the nonsense book by T.S. Eliot lives again in a fresh, new touring company production of CATS now at the Forrest Theatre until June 30.
The plot by T.S. Eliot involves a special convening of jellicle cats in what was called a “Ball” which happens once a year where a supernatural event transforms one chosen cat to renewed life. T.S. Eliot explained the meaning of “jellicle cats” in an unpublished poem as a corruption of “dear little cats.” That’s some corruption of pronunciation by Eliot’s infant niece, as one story goes.
New choreography by Broadway phenomenon Andy Blankenbuehler reimagines the original choreography by Gillian Lynne, scenic and costume design is by John Napier, lighting by Natasha Katz, with sound by Nick Potter enhances this new production directed by Trevor Nunn. “Memory,” the undeniable staple of the American Musical Theatre written by Trevor Nunn, is of course here, and it is sung by Keri Rene Fuller, and she does a smashing good job of it. Other standout performances are by McGee Maddox as Rum Tum Tugger, Tion Gaston as Mistoffelees, Timothy Gulan as Asparagus, Tyler John Logan as Macavity, and Brandon Michael Nase as old Deuteronomy. The spirited live CATS orchestra was directed by Eric Kang.
The line wound around the block with patrons waiting to enter the Forrest Theatre on June 19. Bags were being checked, and this caused delays. So, be forewarned and plan for an extra 20 minutes standing in line to get into the theatre. The Forrest was packed with people of all ages, with many children under age 10 attending this 2-1/2 hour musical. For many in the audience, this was their fourth or sixth viewing of this Grammy and Tony-Award winning musical. With the atmospheric lighting, and dramatic readings of the lines and musical delivery, some may find sitting in row W just doesn’t do the show justice. If possible, try to sit as close as possible to get the full, thrilling effect of CATS.
CATS is now playing at the Forrest Theatre, 1114 Walnut Street, Philadelphia, PA, and continues until June 30. CATS is part of the Broadway Philadelphia season at the Kimmel Center. For more information, and to purchase tickets, visit www.kimmelcenter.org .
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