Tacoma Musical Theatre has another hit with their spectacular production of CATS, running now through December 17th. Opening night was a celebration of wonderful ensemble work, amazing solo-duet-and trio turns by talented singer-dancer-actors from beginning to end. The house was Standing Room Only and the audience stopped the show several times with appreciation, cheers and applause.
Every single person on the stage had their moment in the ample moonlight of the clever multi-leveled set designed by Dennis Kurtz and Jon Douglas Rake. It’s a cat’s dream of hiding places and luxuriant spaces to bask in feline stretching and posing. Cat behavior is captured with love in the choreography by a pair of remarkable co-directors– Lexi Barnett and Jon Douglas Rake. They make it easy for the audience to adore the production. One can only imagine the hours and weeks of rehearsal invested to find that cat-sense of spontaneity and ease in which this intriguing animal can switch focus from one atmosphere to another completely different atmosphere in an instant. But that’s the life of a cat! It is a challenge to have an episodic musical and an equally moving, subtle storyline that builds and moves forward. The entire production team, including Janet English and JullesM costumes, and Sheldon Warshaw’s lights help make the story cohesive and enjoyable. The beautiful moon becomes an irresistible draw to the tribe in the same way a flashlight compels a cat to reach for and bask in the light. Lovely.
Mauro Bozzo is the charming seasoned entertainer of the evening who introduces most of the Jellicles tribe. He has a wonderful number with Asperagus (nicknamed Gus) played by Harry Turpin and backed up by the ensemble in which the audience learns how the Jellicles receive their names. It is one of life’s joys to find just the right name for a cat and the cast performs this number with that kind of enthusiasm and specificity. I remember a naughty cat from college days whose name was a constant reminder that if he got into a finite number of escapades, he might end up in a cookpot somewhere—“Taco”. I’m not sure Taco made it to the final level of Cat nirvana, but he was a definite joy to watch as he scorned human rules and followed his bliss.
Other stand-outs are Richard Cubi (Mr. Mistoffelees), Christina Naficy (Demeter . . . and Dance Captain) Andres Fry (Bustopher Jones), Jill Heinecke (Jennyanydots . . . and Tap Dance Captain), Sophia Palacios (Jellyorum), Jesse Geray (Skimbleshanks), Kawika Huston (Rum Tum Tugger), Alison Rucker (Rumpleteazer), John Kelleher (Old Deuteronomy), Allen C. Melo (Mungojerrie), and Harry Turpin (Asparagus/Growtiger).
Co-Director/Co-Choreographer – Lexi Barnett
Co-Director/Co-Choreographer – Jon Douglas Rake
Music Director – John Kelleher
Music Coordinator – Jeffrey Stvrtecky
Set Designers – Jon Douglas Rake and Dennis Kurtz
Master Stage Carpenter – Dennis Kurtz
Costume Designer – Janet English
Costume Manager – Julles M
Assistant Costumer – Monika Newitt
Costume Volunteers – Coleen Lindgren, Bertha Carrales, Maureen Leclaire Dentler, Safe Stevens
Lighting Designer – Sheldon Warshaw
Stage Manager/Prop Master – Angela K. Morgan
Sound Designer – Amy Silveria
House Manager & Photographer – Kat Dollarhide
All the performances in the evening are outstanding. A few favorite moments for this reviewer were Rum Tum Tugger’s entrance in which Kawika Huston owns the stage; Rumpleteazer and Mungojerrie played by Alison Rucker and Allen C. Melo for capturing how much fun identical twins can have pulling tricks on unsuspecting humans; Andrew Fry’s uptown and stylish rendition of Bustopher Jones; and the energetic anti-hero Maccavity played to a fare-thee-well by Nick Marston right through to his dramatic exit in which I thought he mistakenly kills himself by taking out all the electrical power in the neighborhood by connecting loose wires (he escapes). Wow.
But, the grand finale occurs when Mr Mistoffelees, grandly played by Richard Cubi, performs magic to restore those lights and brings back Old Deuteronomy played with love and irrefutable leadership by John Kelleher. The talented Diane Bozzo plays Grizabella who sings the signature song of tragedy and hope “Memory” is permitted to proceed to with her last cat journey to the Heavenside Layer. It’s was an unforgettable evening, not to be missed.
The musical runs to December 17th. Don’t wait too long to get your tickets.
Order your tickets online – tacomamusicalplayhouse.csstix.com/