The musical “CATS” will be on the Popejoy Hall stage at 7:30 p.m. tonight (Friday, May 17) and repeats at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. Saturday, May 18 and 1 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. Sunday, May 19. Popejoy Hall is in the UNM Center for the Arts.
For tickets, visit www.unmtickets.com or www.popejoypresents.com, or call 925-5858 or go to ticket offices in the UNM Bookstore and Dreamstyle Arena (The Pit) or at the Center for the Arts box office. For groups of 10 or more email email@example.com.
By David Steinberg
How do you improve on a legend? In this case, the legendary Broadway show “CATS”?
The revival – rebirth, if you will – of “CATS” isn’t about improvement. It’s a matter of allowing for new interpretations by the musical’s creative team. Call it re-freshening.
Be assured that Andrew Lloyd Webber’s memorable musical score remains the same. (You can still hum along with Grizabella – quietly please – in her singing of the heartbreaking song “Memory.”) Keri René Fuller is the ancient Grizabella.
The story, too, remains unchanged. It is about one night in the life of the tribe of Jellicle Cats and the decision who among them will ascend to the “Heavyside Layer” and be reborn into a new life.
So what’s new in this thrilling national touring company production that’s at Popejoy Hall this weekend?
New and explosive sound design by Mick Potter. Eye-grabbing scenic and costume designs by John Napier. Popping new lighting design by Natasha Katz. And new choreography by Andy Blankenbuehler based on the original choreography.
The result is a production that is more rock concert-like. It seems louder. More lights brighten the darkness on the stage and strings of lightbulbs flash in different colors over the aisles.
Plus there are seemingly longer dance numbers that will make any seated audience member short of breath.
If there is a single character that brilliantly encapsulates all of these new design elements it is Mister Mistoffelees, joyfully and wordlessly performed by Tion Gaston. Gaston’s character does not appear until near the end of Act II but his dynamic performance brings to a head – and reminds viewers – of the many earlier solo performances of the rest of the ensemble.
Among them are the pillow-softness of Jennyanydots (Emily Jeanne Philliips), the rock star sexiness of Rum Tum Tugger (McGee Maddox), the spunkiness of the pair Mungojerrie (Tony D’Alelio) and Rumpleteazer (Rose Iannaccone), the aristocratic puffiness of Bustopher Jones (Timothy Gulan), the audible misdemeanors of the late-appearing Macavity (Tyler John Logan) and the slow motion of the patriarchal Old Deuteronomy (Brandon Michael Nase).
Then there are the other cast members who aren’t featured characters but give needed terpsichorean and voiced support to the production.
“CATS” opened in London in 1981 and the next year the production opened on Broadway, where it ran for 18 years. It won seven Tony Awards including Best Musical.
The musical returned to Broadway in 2016 in a revival production that is now on a national tour.