“Cats” Closes off the Musical Theatre Program Year—a review


Timothy Swensen

By Cate Heiner

The University of Utah’s Musical Theatre Program senior class is bringing their careers to a close as they showcase their skills in “Cats.”

One of the longest running musicals in Broadway’s history, “Cats” originated as a collection of poems by T.S. Elliot and includes songs written by Andrew Lloyd Webber, a writer for “The Phantom of the Opera” and “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat,” among others.

Over the course of the show, the audience witnesses the “Jellicle Ball,” wherein the “Jellicle cats” join together to see which of them will be selected to rise to the “Heavyside Layer.”

While “Cats” is generally an incredibly ambitious show, the MTP class of 2017 has done an excellent job working in an unusual space with condensed orchestration. With a multitude of high energy dance numbers, the show works to highlight the choreographic skills of the cast. In a small space like Studio 115, the audience is up close and personal with many of the performers at various points during the production. While the majority of the storytelling is done through dance and movement, the intimate space also adds to the performance as the cast can break the fourth wall and communicate directly with the audience. The use of aisles and staircases created a feeling of existing within the story, rather than observing it from the outside.

The cast appeared very cohesive and fluid both in the performance and their collaboration.

From the solo performance of Liz Terry as Grizabella in “Memory,” to the large production numbers like “Skimbleshanks the Railway Cat” led by the charismatic John Peterson as the titular character, all cast members appeared engaged and fully committed to their roles.

The female ensemble performing “Macavity” was both sultry and powerful, with stellar performances from Ari Glauser and Mandy McDonell as Bombalurina and Demeter respectively.

The orchestra, under the direction of Alex Marshall, kept the story moving while establishing the mood of the narrative, while set and lighting designs by Timothy Swensen added depth and underscored the action smoothly.

In this particular version, students played on the idea that these were not just stray cats, but shelter cats, and tied to this was an attempt to provide information about the local Best Friends Utah Adoption Center, which was available in the PAB lobby.

With an entirely sold-out run, “Cats” proved to be a successful end for the class of 2017. For more information about senior showcases in the theatre department, please visit: www.theatre.utah.edu.

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