It was CATS at the Mayo Performing Arts Center. The immensely popular musical CATS never gets old. It is the winner of 7 Tony Awards, including Best Musical. It opened on March 10th at the Mayo Performing Arts Center for a 4-show run. The record-breaking production, written by Andrew Lloyd Webber featured Memory, one of the most revered songs from musical theater. The audience was mesmerized and “meowing” with laughter began with the first song.
CATS is the story of the Jellicle cats who, coming together to bask in the moonlight, have to decide which cat will go to heaven (Heaviside Layer) and return to another life. Based on T. S. Eliot’s 1939 poetry collection, Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats, Webber set Eliot’s verse to music. Spectacular costumes, breathtaking dancing and aerobatics, and songs cherished by millions worldwide produced an evening that won’t disappear from anyone’s mind.
Cats Have Nine Lives
In the first act, the first song, Jellicle Song for Jellicle Cats, features the entire company. It emotionally combines music and dance introducing viewers to the main storyline. After all, cats have nine lives. The Naming of the Cats is the second song, where the cats know humans watch them.
Old Gumbie Cats
Munkustrap (Kade Wright), the narrator, introduced us to The Old Gumbie Cat (in a song of the same name by Michelle E. Carter)), the first contender for the trip to Heaviside, and many other essential cats on stage. The Rum Tum Tugger tune, sung by the Rum Tum Tugger (Hank Santos) catin his slinky, rock star performance, had the audience wanting more for his sultry performance.
The alluring cat Victoria (Yuka Notsuka) treated the audience to a solo ballet performance, bedazzling in a white cat suit. Next, an old shabby feline Grizabella (Tayler Harris) sang a tune with the same name, and the other cats shunned her when she arrived. We met Old Deuteronomy (Cameron Schutza), the Jellicle patriarch, who will ultimately decide who makes the last journey to Heaviside Layer year after year and hear his song of the same name. They entertained us with the stunning stage presentation of The Jellicle Ball, which Grizabella attends, saddened by being unable to dance at the ball because of her old age. Instead, she thrilled the audience with a prelude of Memory.
On-Stage Train Props
In the second act, Gus (John Anker Bow) and his song Gus: The Theatre Cat and Skimbleshanks (John Zamborsky) and his tune Skimbleshanks: The Railway Cat entertained all. The Railway Catfeatured an extraordinary dance sequence with special-effects sounds and on-stage train props, bringing a resounding response once again from the audience.
There are so many beautiful songs in the first and second acts, too many to list. Still, song after song and with mindboggling dance presentations, the theatergoers waited in anticipation to hear Grizabella’s full performance of Memory, and it didn’t disappoint. It was so powerful that everyone in the theater held their breath momentarily.
Old Deuteronomy chose Grizabella to go to Heaviside Layer, and she and Old Deuteronomy boarded a special-effects flying sauce-like vehicle as they both headed for another life. Finally, old Deuteronomy gave his last farewell. At that point, all in the audience could agree they had just witnessed one of the most celebrated musicals in the history of theater and could understand why it remains so.
CATS at the Mayo Performing Arts Center
Presented by Troila Entertinment. Music by Andrew Lloyd Webber. Memory lyric written by Trevor Nunn. Based on “Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats” by T.S. Eliot. Starring Sammy Fossum, Hank Santos, Erica Lee Cianciulli, Lexy Bittner, Wilson Livingston, Nora Degreen, Tayler Harris, Allyson Duarte, Michelle E. Carter, Ibn Snell, Brian Craig Nelson, Kade Wright, John Anker Bow, Sam Buchanan, Dominic Fortunato, Taryn Smithson, Sam Bello, John Zamborsky, Elana Valastro, Brendan Moran, Cameron Schutza, Yuka Notsuka with Luke Bernier, Rachael Haber, Jonathan Heller, Clara Hevia and Tony Mowatt. Dance captains Gracie Anderson and Kiernan MacDonald; Music Director/Conductor Jonathan Gorst; General Manager Tyler Soltis; Production Manager Gregg Damanti; Technical Director Dave Burch; Company Manager Rachael Ffrench; casting by Hardt Casting; Marketing and publicity by DJ Martin; Makeup design by John Napier; Wigs by Miss Lemon Limited; Musical supervisor for Andrew Lloyd Webber David Wilson; Production Stage Manager Emma Iacometta; Head Carpenter Ronan Havlice; Production Photography by Matt Murphy, Murphymade.
CATS will be on tour in 2023 through June. The running time is approximately two hours with a 20-minute intermission.
Readers may also enjoy our reviews of The Conductor at the Theater for the New City, Turn the Beat Around at 54 Below, Wynton Marsalis and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, and Light of Paradise at the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine.