The second show of Theatre by the Sea's 80th season is "Cats". "Cats" was written by famed composer Sir Andrew Lloyd Weber and is based on T.S. Eliot's 'Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats,' this long running musical remains a favorite with audiences nationwide. "Cats" tells the story of the Jellicles, a tribe of cats who assemble for their annual junkyard ball where they announce the cat that will be reborn. Originally produced at the New London Theatre on May 11, 1981, "Cats" began its New York run at the Winter Garden Theatre on October 7, 1982. The show won seven 1983 Tony Awards, including Best Musical and Best Score for composer Andrew Lloyd Webber. On September 10, 2000 "Cats" finally hung up its whiskers after nearly 18 years, and a record 7,485 performances. The show's appeal is clearly universal, as it has been translated into over 20 languages. As time has proven, "Cats" is truly now and forever. Producer and owner Bill Hanney spares no expense in bringing this area premiere to RI audiences from set to costumes to sound and lighting. Director/choreographer Richard Stafford and music director Milton Granger create a high energy dance spectacular that will leave you breathless with the power of the vocals and dancing of their talented cast members.
Richard's precision with the dancers shines through with their dance steps done in perfect unison. The harmonic balance of the chorus is astounding and Milton obtains strong vocals from them. The lighting and sound are spectacular and the cat costumes by Kansas City Costume Co. are breathtaking and the moonlit junkyard set by Anthony Phelps is terrific, too."Cats" is a pastiche of songs and dances rather than a traditional musical with a story. It contains a dozen musical vignettes that celebrate various feline characters and their midnight revels. Weber's music contains bouncy music hall ditties, some rousing anthems and syncopated march music. Richard gives each of his cast their moment to shine and his dances are phenomenal. The show reaches its high point when the bedraggled glamour puss, Grizabella, beatifically ascends to wherever good cats go in their next lives. Katy Blake as Grizabella sings "Grizabella: The Glamour Cat" and later tugs at your heartstrings with the well known "Memory". She stops the show with her rendition of the most beautiful song of the evening which leaves the audience in tears. Peter Adams as Old Deuteronomy, the patriarch of the cats, anchors the production. He uses a gentle hearted demeanor to reach the audience. Peter delivers a terrific performance in this role of a large old cat that has lived many lives and married nine wives. His powerful voice soars in his songs. Old Deuteronomy will choose which Jellicle cat will go to Heavyside Layer.
The chorus voices soar in several of their numbers including "Jellicle Songs for Jellicle Cats", "The Naming of the Cats", "The Song of the Jellicles" and "The Journey to Heavyside". Other standouts in the cast are Craig Donnelly who sports an infectious smile and whirlwind spinning skills as the magical Mr. Mistofelees. His dancing is spectacular. Amanda Pulcini as Jennyanydots sings several songs "The Old Gumbie Cat" which turns into a rousing tap dance and "Bustopher Jones: The Cat About Town". Felipe Barbosa Bombonato and Lucy Horton's strong baritone and soprano voices soar in "Gus: The Theatre Cat". Chris Stevens prances about as the rock and rolling Rum Tum Tugger in his "The Rum Tum Tugger" song with the company. He is reminiscent of Elvis and dances with a lady in the audience. Chris also does the vocals in "Mr. Mistofelees". Ian Parmenter shines as Munkustrap, the musical's emcee. The mischievous cat burglars Mungojerrie and Rumpleteazer are well played by Sharrod Williams and Hillary Porter whose song livens up the show with their hilarious antics and their awesome athletic dancing. Kudos to the whole cast on a job very well done. Opening night isn't complete without the after the show party at the Bistro. Duane Crowe and his lovely wife Karleen's delicious food this time was shrimp, chicken, assorted vegetables and a beautifully decorated cake. So for a high energy musical that will entertain you all night long, be sure to catch "Cats" before they dance their way out of town.