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Cats ~ The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts

Jordan Wright
September 21, 2019 

Cats!  Lots of cats!  Twenty-six, in fact.  Most especially Jellicle cats – the ones T. S. Elliot told of in “Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats”.  Andrew Lloyd Webber’s classic blockbuster is in town for a short run, and this is the musical to see.  Full stop.

As the music’s eerily and compelling orchestration plays the intro, and just as you’re adjusting your eyes to pitch darkness, the cats slink down the aisles, their tails twitching and laser-eyes blinking, leaping and posing and creating the electrifying moments you won’t soon forget.  A silvery moon hangs high over a darkened alley as the cats prepare for the annual Jellicle Ball – a magical occasion whereby one cat is chosen to be reborn.  Keeping up with so many cats takes a bit of doing since they have three names: fanciful names, sensible names and naturally, as befits a cat of stature, an elegant name.  As explained in “The Naming of Cats”, “the cat himself knows his name, but will never confess.”

The North American Tour Company of CATS. Photo by Matthew Murphy

The sheer athleticism of the show is jaw-dropping – leaps, backover flips, cartwheels, tap dancing!!!, jazzy bits and ballet bits – all frenetically energetic and fiercely feline.  Some of the most spectacular choreography ever includes thigh-to-ear kicks that would make the Rockettes jealous.  I had to wonder how these actors/dancers/singers do it all, and all at the same time, in costume, with cat faces and long tails.

Brandon Michael Nase as ‘Old Deuteronomy’ and the North American Tour Company of CATS. Photo by Matthew Murphy

Old Deuteronomy appears in a massive fur suit, and the roly-poly tuxedo cat, Bustopher Jones, sports a fur suit of black tie when he’s out cattin’ around.  Well, of course, he’s from the posh side of St. James.

McGee Maddox as ‘Rum Tum Tugger’ and the North American Tour Company of CATS. Photo by Matthew Murphy.

McCavity, “The Mystery Cat” is a ginger cat and a monster of depravity, only outdone by the fabulous Rum Tum Tugger, played in spectacular fashion by 10-foot tall, legs-for-days (ah, well, it seems like it) McGee Maddox.  You are sure to pick your favorites, based on the particular quirks and quibbles of cats you have known.  But everyone will agree on the appeal of Grizabella, the tattered old tabby who is on her last paws.  Played by the amazing Keri René Fuller, whose sublimely soaring rendering of “Memory” will send goosebumps up your spine, it is transcendent.

Keri René Fuller as Grizabella in the North American Tour of CATS. Photo by Matthew Murphy

Orchestrations by Andrew Lloyd Webber & David Cullen with the Kennedy Center Opera House Orchestra and the Cats Orchestra.  With original scenic and costume design by John Napier (Les Misérables), all-new lighting design by Natasha Katz (Aladdin), all-new sound design by Mick Potter, new choreography by Andy Blankenbuehler (Hamilton) based on the original choreography by Gillian Lynne (The Phantom of the Opera), and direction by Trevor Nunn (Les Misérables), make this production of Cats the perfect show for a new generation.

With Phillip Deceus as Alonso, Emma Hearn as Bombalurina, Mariah Reives as Cassandra, Maurice Dawkins as Coricopat, Alexa Racioppi as Demeter, Kaitlyn Davidson as Jellylorum, Emily Jeanne Phillips as Jennyanydots, PJ DiGaetano as Mistoffelees, Tony d’Alelio as Mungojerrie, Dan Hoy as Munkustrap, Timothy Gulan as Peter/Bustopher Jones/Asparagus, Tyler John Logan as Plato/Macavity, Brett Michael Lockley as Pouncival, Rose Iannaccone as Rumpelteazer, Ahren Victory as Sillabub, Ethan Saviet as Skimbleshanks, Laura Katherine Kaufman as Tantomile, Devin Neilson as Tumblebrutus, Brandon Michael Nase as Victor/Deuteronomy, Caitlin Bond as Victoria, and Maria Failla, Adam Richardson, Zachary Tallman and Tricia Tanguy as The Cats Chorus.

Highly recommended.  It’s the cat’s meow and more!

Through October 6th at The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, 2700 F St., NW, Washington, DC.  For tickets and information call 202 467-4600 or visit www.Kennedy-Center.org.

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