Bringing “Cats” to the U—a preview

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Tim Swensen

Best known for its unusual story line, Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “Cats” is the senior showcase performance for the University of Utah’s Musical Theatre Program this year.

Based on the collection of poetry, “Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats” by T.S. Elliot, the show explores a tribe of “Jellicle” cats, a name Elliot assigned his also made up “Jellicle Ball”-attending creations. As described in the musical’s opening number, the Jellicle cats come together once a year to make what is called “the Jellicle choice,” where one cat is selected to rise to the Heaviside Layer.

The characters are as individual as they are diverse, ranging from twin cat burglars to railway assistants to rock stars. Many of the cats portrayed play off of historical ideology about cats, including the association with magic and enchantment along with the mysterious and sinister creatures that lurk in the dark.

Originally produced in 1981, “Cats” has become a musical theater standard. The original production won numerous Tony awards including Best Musical, Best Book of a Musical and Best Original Score.

Perhaps the most recognizable element of “Cats” comes from its show stopping ballad “Memory,” sung by aging feline Grizabella. Audiences may recognize the tune, which has been performed by artists like Susan Boyle, Barbara Striesand, Celine Dion and, in the most recent Broadway revival, Leona Lewis. For the U’s production, the role of Grizabella will be shared by seniors Liz Terry and Bailey Walker. Terry is performing the role Friday night, Saturday night and Sunday afternoon, and was seen most recently as Rose in “Dogfight” this spring. Walker takes over the role for Thursday evening, Saturday afternoon and Sunday evening. Shas performed in “King Charles III” at Pioneer Theatre Company as well as “Self Defense, or Death of Some Salesmen” last fall.

Visiting assistant professor Michael Pinkerton directs “Cats,” after having worked as a guest Artist in the MTP and directing the School of Music’s production of “Die Fledermaus” last year. Christine Moore Watkins, an adjunct instructor in the department, choreographs. The cast is comprised of students in the MTP as they showcase their training during their time at the U.

“Cats” opens April 21 and runs through April 23 in Studio 115, located in the Performing Arts Building. Tickets are available online through the theatre department website, including discounts for both U students and students in the Department of Theatre. All proceeds from ticket sales go towards the senior production of 2018. More information can be found here: http://theatre.utah.edu/productions/cats-mtp-senior-show/.

c.heiner@ustudentmedia.com

 

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