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Music by Andrew Lloyd Webber, Based on “Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats” by T.S. Eliot
Additional Lyric material written by Trevor Nunn and Richard Stilgoe, “Memory” lyric written by Trevor Nunn, based on poems by T.S. Eliot

Dallas Summer Musicals

Alonzo – Phillip Deceus
Bill Bailey/Rum Tum Tugger – McGee Maddox
Bombalurina – Emma Hearn
Cassandra – Mariah Reives
Coricopat – Maurice Dawkins
Demeter – Alexa Racioppi
Grizabella – Keri Rene Fuller
Jellylorum – Kaitlyn Davidson
Jennyanydots – Emily Jeanne Phillips
Mistoffelees – PJ DiGaetano
Mungojerri – Justin W. Geiss
Munkustrap – Dan Hoy
Peter/Bustopher Jones/Asparagus – Timothy Gulan
Plato/McCavity – Brayden Newby
Pouncival – Brett Michael Lockley
Rumpleteazer – Rose Iannaccone
Sillabub – Ariana Rosario
Skimbleshanks – Giovanni DiGabriele
Tantomile – Laura Katherine Kaufman
Tumblebrutus – Cameron Edris
Victor/Old Deuteronomy – Brandon Michael Nase
Victoria – Caitlin Bond
The Cats Chorus – Maria Failla, Madison Mitchell, Adam Richardson, Zachary Tallman
Swings – Zachery S. Berger, Erin Chupinsky, Devin Hatch, Marina Lazzaretto, Charlotte O’Dowd, Austin Joseph Reynolds
DANCE CAPTAINS – Erin Chupinksy, Joseph Reynolds

Music Director/Conductor – Eric Kang
Assoc. Music Director/Keyboard 3 – Jonathan Craft
Keyboards – Christian Regul, David Robison, David Sawicki
Reeds – Randy Lee, Don Fabian
Guitar – Joe Lee; Bass: Carl Hillman
Drums/Percussion: Aaron Nix
Sub Synth: Jeff Lankov
Music Supervisor: Kristen Blodgette
Assoc. Music Supervisor: Brian Taylor
Keyboard Programmer: Stuart Andrews
Music Coordinator: Talitha Fehr

Director – Trevor Nunn
Original Choreographer – Gillian Lynne
Choreographer – Andy Blankenbuehler
Music Supervisor – Kristen Blodgette
Scenic and Costume Designer – John Napier, Associate Costume Designer – Abigail Hahn
Lighting Designer – Natasha Katz
Sound Designer – Mick Potter
Assoc. Director/Choreographer – Chrissie Cartwright, Assoc. Choreographer – Kim Craven, Assistant Choreographers – Ellenore Scott, Lili Froehlich
Hair and Makeup Design – Victoria Tinsman
Production Stage Manager – J. Andrew Blevins, Stage Manager – Jennifer Scott, Assistant Stage Manager – Justin Coffman
Company Manager – Aaron Quintana
Producers: Troika Entertainment, Bond Theatrical Group, The Really Useful Group, The Schubert Organization, James L. Nederlander, Cameron Mackintosh, AEA.

Reviewed Performance: 11/6/2019

Reviewed by Stacey Upton, Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN

CATS is an iconic musical. It is the winner of 7 Tony Awards, including Best Musical, it holds the record of 4th longest-running musical on Broadway with 18 years of performances, and it’s been turned into a soon-to-be-released film. The tour that Dallas Summer Musicals is presenting at the Music Hall at Fair Park has a wonderful ensemble that boasts standout singers and dancers. The overall production design is a delight, with colored party lights stretching into the audience and inviting us into the magical Jellicle Cat Ball that is about to take place. The stage is covered with oversized and climb-able junkyard items, with a large full moon and stars bathing the stage in an appropriately magical blue light. As the musical begins, out of the dark, bright green cat eyes prowl the aisles and stage and begin the opening number “Jellicle Songs for Jellicle Cats.” The staging allows for the cast to come down into the aisles multiple times, so if you are fortunate enough to be seated in the orchestra, you can get a close-up view of the incredible costuming and makeup that are part of the delight of this show. The cast does a superb job of being cats. Whimsy and athleticism are given equal measure – they bring delight in their choral observation that Cats. Are Not. Dogs.

The show has aged remarkably well, although its light story line (it is, after all, adapted from a series of poems) and unconventional narrative may not work for some folks. There is also a lot of synth composition in it that keeps this musical attached to its 80s roots – what once sounded on-point and new feels a little dated now. Those minor details aside, “Cats” is a musical that puts poetry and dance and musicality first, and leaves rather large gaps in terms of understanding what is going on – it is a show long on spectacle, short on story. To remedy that, in brief: A tribe of cats who live in a junkyard meet once a year to see which of them has earned the right to live another life, decided upon by the patriarch, Old Deuteronomy. The majority of the musical is comprised of short vignettes put to dance and song as individual cats present their personal story in hopes of winning this prize. In the end it is a once beautiful, but now mangy and dying Grizabella who gets to fly to new life after she wins over the tribe by singing the melancholy “Memory.” This dance-intensive musical is based on the original choreography by Gillian Lynne but has been nicely updated by Andy Blankenbuehler, who also choreographed “Hamilton.” This uber-talented choreographer has introduced many athletic modern-dance, jazz and gymnastics moves into the mix, while retaining gorgeous ballet elements as well as tap, jive, and sinuous cat-moves throughout. The white prima ballerina cat, Victoria, performed by Caitlin Bond is a standout in this production. She is effortless in her complex and powerful leaps, lifts and dance sequences. Another phenomenal dance number is a slinky duet, “Mungojerrie and Rumpleteazer,” about two mischievous, thieving cats performed with double-jointed flexibility by Justin W. Geiss and Rose Iannaccone. PJ DiGaetano brings the house down with his incredible multiple spins and ballet leaps as Mistoffelees, a Tuxedo kitten with mystical powers. The full-on light show that accompanies this particular number is astonishing as it flashes to the beat of the music. The rousing tap-dance number that features dancing beetles and mice with Emily Jeanne Phillips as kindly cat Jennyanydots was pure old-fashioned music hall extravaganza. It left us all grinning from ear to ear, and I saw three inspired people at intermission tap dancing down the stairs. The entire company shines in the incredibly complex and difficult 9 ½ minute “Jellicle Ball” that rounds out the dancing at the end of act one, directly before Grizabella sings “Memory.” This cast of 32 excellent singer/dancers moves continuously throughout this 2 hour and 20-minute show with grace and poise, right down to their little cupped hands that mimic wee little cat paws.

“Memory” is the show-tune standard you know from this show. It has withstood the test of time, covered by Barbra Streisand and others. Jennifer Hudson will be singing it in the movie. Keri Rene Fuller’s rendition of it as broken, as opposed to simply aged was truly stunning. The longer reprise of the song, sung along with Arianna Rosario as Sillabub as her clear successor in the Jellicle world was a showstopper as Fuller begged for acceptance and blasted her notes to the back of the gigantic theatre. She hit a superb E-flat bathed in moonlight and tragedy, and wowed us all. This critic owned the original cast album from the London production and can flat-out say that Fuller tops that iconic vocal performance with her rendition. You truly do know “what happiness is” when you are touched by this song.

Fuller is not alone in owning phenomenal pipes. There were many vocal standouts in this show, including the impressive baritone of Brandon Michael Nase as Old Deuteronomy. His “The Ad-dressing of Cats” was a showstopper. Dan Hoy as Munkustrap has the job of introducing many of the cats to us, and did a lovely job with his rich baritone and kindly expressions. He’s the kind of cat you’d like to adopt. The feline trio of Jellylorum, Demeter and Bombalurina (Kaitlyn Davidson, Alexa Racioppi and Emma Hearn) were also top-notch in their vocal numbers. Racioppi and Hearn stood out again during the scary “McCavity The Mystery Cat,” sequence that ended in a rousing cat fight between athletic dancers Brayden Newby, McGee Maddox, and Dan Hoy. McGee Maddox as Rum Tum Tugger sells his Elvis-type number “The Rum-Tum Tugger” more with his powerful primo ballet body than his voice, but his showmanship wins out overall into a true crowd favorite. “Gus the Theatre Cat” is wonderfully growled, snarled and played with aplomb by experienced comedic singer-actor Timothy Gulan and included a fun number that required the ensemble to quickly don pieces of junk to become rival dog factions in the quirky “The Awefull Battle of the Pekes and the Pollicles.”

The show has been helped enormously in this revival by the lighting design by Natasha Katz. Her vision includes us immediately in this nighttime junkyard world and is nearly a character all on its own. The set design by John Napier works wonderfully, as do the special effects and flying that occurs within this gorgeous show. The backdrop of a live orchestra is always a plus, even though they are playing unseen behind the set. Conductor Eric Kang and his musicians are perfectly synched to the onstage singers and dancers, and their musicality was impeccable. The sound design by Mick Potter allowed every word to be heard perfectly, and the balance of orchestra to voices was beautiful. The mics were also cleverly hidden within the costuming, maintaining the illusion of a perfect choral of cats.

The costuming of this show is integral, as are the wigs and makeup. This updated version of the show has far surpassed basic legwarmers slapped over tights. John Napier designed both these skin-tight costumes and the overall scenic design. He has won multiple awards including BAFTAs and Tony’s for a reason. Every single member of the tribe has different patterning, ears, and headshape. Seeing the performer’s perfectly designed wigs and makeup up close as they came through the audience was fun. They come across as true individuals, helped by the wonderful cat movements that are continual throughout the show. Even when this wonderful group of performers is not center stage, they are still on-stage being part of the show, giving us little tail swishes and head tilts that all say CATS. This is a marvelous, updated, fun, and immersive delight of a show that works for both old-timers and young folks. Congratulations to this hard-working and talented cast and production for bringing an outstanding version of CATS to Dallas.

A final word about the audience of this show. They were among the rudest I have ever witnessed in my 50+ years of attending the theatre. Not one but two separate patrons next to my companion and myself were flipping through their on-line dating accounts during the show. They left at intermission, no doubt for some hot date. At the end of the show, a shocking amount of no-taste plebs got up and left before the curtain call. Really? The performers just danced and sang their hearts out for over two hours and you can’t give two minutes of your time to applaud them? Is racing to your car really that important? I realize I am preaching to the choir here with the readers of The Column, but it sure made me a grumpy cat. Perhaps all of us in the know can start educating audiences on how to behave.

Performances Weds Nov 6th -Sunday Nov. 17th
Thurs – Sunday evenings at 7.30pm, Saturday and Sunday Matinees at 1.30pm
Saturday Nov. 16th at 1.30pm is an ASL performance
Music Hall at Fair Park