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CATS - The Musical
a Musical
CATEGORY : COMEDY DRAMA IMPROV CHILDREN MUSICAL PUPPET
by T. S. Eliot, music by Andrew Lloyd Webber

COMPANY : Blackwell Playhouse
VENUE : Blackwell Playhouse
ID# 2874

SHOWING : September 12, 2008 - October 05, 2008

[REVIEW THIS PRODUCTION]

PRODUCTION DESCRIPTION

Based on the universally popular poetry of T.S. Eliot, CATS tells the story, in song and dance, of the annual gathering of Jellicle cats at which time one special cat is selected to ascend to the Heaviside layer. A true musical theatre phenomenon, CATS opened at London's New London Theatre on May 11, 1981 and ran for a record-setting 21 years. CATS's London success was nearly matched on Broadway where it ran at the Wintergarden Theatre for just over 18 years. And now, the Blackwell Playhouse in Marietta is proud to be one of the very first community theater companies nationally to stage CATS on behalf of the Atlanta community. Directed by Rob Roy Hardie.


CAST & CREW LIST
Cast John Christian
Director Rob Hardie
Choreographer Jennifer Smiles
Lighting Design Michael Hernandez
Music Director Mary Beth Morrison
McCavity Joe Arnotti
Mr. Mistoffelees Todd Barber
Rumpleteazer Samantha Blinn
Gus: The Theater Cat Rob Hardie
Rum Tum Tugger Patrick Hill
Grizabella Tanya M. Lee
Jennyanydots Jennifer Loudermilk
Grizabella u/s Jennifer Loudermilk
Cassandra Becca Mattox
Alonzo Dale Antonio Moore
Munkustrap Nicholas Morrett
Jellylorum Amanda Leigh Pickard
Skimbleshanks Zip Rampy
Bustopher Jones Dan Rich
Demeter Katie Rouse
Old Deuteronomy Lee Sanders
Bombalurina Krystle Simmons
Mungojerrie Jennifer Smiles
Tutti Amanda Whittle
Click to Submit Cast & Crew Info for this production
REVIEWS

[REVIEW THIS PRODUCTION]

Catalicious!
by schadenfreude
Thursday, October 23, 2008
4.0
I wanted to write this review earlier but school has been overwhelming.

Overall, Cats was a very good show. The blocking was choppy, but the choreography was oh so very good. Overall the cast was very talented and energized, but the music direction and some of the singing was lacking. The tech was excellent by far, for I really enjoyed the lighting, sound and special effects. And the costumes were also very good. By far my favorite part of the show was Mungojerrie and Rumpleteazer. Both were better than Broadway. Oh and I really loved Grizabella too.

Although not as good as Into the Woods, Rob Hardie is doing great things at Blackwell. Bravo to Rob and the entire cast! I will be back to see The Producers! [POST A COMMENT REGARDING THIS REVIEW]
Another View from the Hot Tin Roof
by Showdog
Saturday, October 4, 2008
2.5
Okay, I know this is risky, but I’m curious after reading the Forum thread about Blackwell blocking reviews for “Cats” and then reading the “comment” which suddenly becomes a review. Curious, yes, then again, we all know the price cats pay for curiosity. Nevertheless, it did motivate me to attend Friday’s performance, so here goes:

Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “Cats” is not on my list of favorite shows. Musically and lyrically, it is repetitive, redundant, repeats itself over and over…and is repetitive. Its lasting appeal is as a dancer’s show. That presents a challenge for productions of “Cats”—particularly community theatre productions, and it is a factor here. Blackwell’s “Cats” has a hard-working and earnest cast, but they are not great dancers. To watch a dancer’s show cast with singers who are not uniformly good dancers is like watching your child’s dance recital. Cute, an “A” for effort, but the spark, snap and appearance that true dancers have is missing.

So what’s good about this “Cats”? Costumes and make-up, for one. Well done---colorful and individual (the only mis-step here was Grizabella). Some very nice voices among the cast. The small band was excellent, especially the young man who played multiple instruments and the onstage violinist (Feline on the Roof?). Bravo. Perhaps the director should not have placed the band in the audience, in front of the actors. Although, there were times they could have been louder to cover the sound of the dancers’ feet during dance sequences. Another plus was the backdrop with interesting lighting effects.

What didn’t work? The opening sequence of crudely edited cat-themed songs. That idea, with full-length songs, would have worked better as pre-show music while the house was being seated. It really was not clever enough to open the show. Having to sit through that and then pretty much repeating the moves during the overture/opening was tedious—twice.

The show’s momentum came from the choreographer—and choreographing “Cats” is a mammoth job! There was an obvious, abrupt change to the show’s pacing when the actors were not dancing. Cat movements were all the same (one could say, “repetitive”), Acting 101. There wasn’t a whole lot of character driven cat-movements—just generic slinking, ear-batting, head butting, scratching (must have been time to change the flea collars) —and some very tenuous, suspenseful splits (will she make it?... splat…she’s down! Is she alright? Yes!...Oh, thank God)

The choreography was creative, but very seldom did the cast have to dance in unison and the few times they did lacked the visual punch of a tight dance group moving with perfect precision. Timing and angles were off and individuals were constantly pulling focus away from the group.

As for lighting, there were too many times when center-stage was brightly lit, but the cats were over to the side, singing, dancing and acting in the dark. Were they directed to do that? The darkness was not atmospheric, it was just dark. The theatre itself was kept so dark you had to use the Braille method to find your seat. That darkness made the cats who ventured into the audience just a little too “haunted house” creepy.

Set design: Using an abandoned carnival midway (instead of the traditional junk yard) was creative, but the set looked haphazard, improvised, lacking true design—too much set for too small a stage. The idea of oversize set pieces, which gives the cats size perspective, was not consistently carried through and missed its intended purpose.
Fewer set pieces, properly proportioned, would have allowed the cats more room—on a very small stage—to dance.

Two performances in particular fell short: Rum Tum Tugger and Grizabella: Rum Tum is written to be a virile, masculine Tom-cat, and that requires more than just pelvic thrusts. This Rum Tum moved about the stage with a lot of exaggerated sashaying, swishing, and the pouty expressions of a cat on a high fashion runway. Unfortunate choices. Maybe it was that humongous fur collar he was wearing. Watching Rum Tum, in his sweaty, unflattering onesie, complete with thrusting pelvis, favor an unfortunate front-row audience member with a lap dance was embarrassing.

Grizabella was slow-moving and decrepit to the extreme. Even aging glamour cats can show a bit of the old diva style, flair and sparkle. Her “look” was far beyond old—she looked like a serious addict on the prowl for the next hit. Her entrances were interminable as she shuffled, limped and hobbled to her center-stage mark, with inexplicable hissing and spitting from the other cats. Is she so old and decrepit that she has no "memory" of grand entrances? And her entrances were always the same. Why couldn't she talk and sing as she moved? Her delivery of the song everyone waits for, “Memory”, was a disappointment. Her chest voice did not have the range to accommodate the high notes, forcing her to switch to a weak, breathy head voice at the song’s climax, leaving this frustrated audience member a victim of “vocalus interruptus”. Could the musical director not have helped her by lowering the key?

Is this production “better than most community theatre productions”? No, not by a long shot. But it is one of the better shows from Blackwell. Cute, “A” for effort, but lacking some essential spark and snap—and missing opportunities to give a decent cast a production which achieves potential excellence.
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at least they're not on a hot tin roof
by Okely Dokely
Wednesday, October 1, 2008
4.0
The last time I saw a Rob Hardie-directed show was 4 years ago when I saw his JOSEPH...DREAMCOAT. I loved it. It was my favorite production I had ever seen at that theater. In my review, I compared Rob to Scott Rousseau. Unfortunately, these days we don't see much of Scott, and upon further thought, Hardie's directorial work now makes me think of Heidi Cline. Cline and Hardie both paint wonderful pictures, give us something unexpectedly interesting, have at least one unique casting choice, and don't seem to settle for anybody phoning it in.

So, um, why exactly haven't I seen a Hardie-directed show in 4 years? The answer, my friend, is blowin' in the wind. I promise it won't be that long again.

In this CATS, there's a lot for the audience to be impressed with and a lot for the cast/crew/director to be proud of. The show opens with an audio montage of Cat references, from the Felix theme song to the famous Cartman quote "No Kitty! That's a bad kitty!" While I thought it ran about 30 seconds to a minute too long, it was cool and I knew I was in for something special.

I forgot how much I liked this score. My favorite numbers have always been Jellicle Songs, Magical Mr. Mistoffelees, and Skimbleshanks (Memory is good, but suffers from the got-too-popular syndrome). The dancers did things that were just as impressive as what I saw at the Fox's production in 1994. My favorite performances came from Nick Morrett as Munkustrap, Patrick Hill as the Rum Tum Tugger, Jennifer Smiles as Mungojerrie, Tanya Lee as Grizabella, and Zip Rampey as Skimbleshanks (though I've always had a soft spot for his song). I could hardly take my eyes off of Jen Smiles - she was so interesting to watch and listen to. I hate to say it, but she stole Rumpleteazer's thunder a little bit in the M&R number. Grizabella had a great voice and her scenes were so unsettling and captivating to watch.

The carnival-like set and lighting were very cool, and there were a couple of effects that made me think "how did they do that?" - which I always like. Maybe Rob can let me in on the secrets.

Since I don't like to do nothing but gush in my reviews, here are some of the things I didn't care for as much and/or could be better:

There were two curtain speeches. One from John, and then another recorded one telling us to turn off our cell phones. Why 2? It certinaly didn't make or break the show, but I had to mention it. I imagine we all hate curtain speeches - put what you need to say in just one and get on with it.

The balance of the band/singers wasn't right all the time. Sometimes it was the band's fault, sometimes it was on the singers. The electric guitar was too loud in the Jellicle number at the beginning, the Rum Tum Tugger number in Act One, and on Skimbleshanks. I don't know if the young man playing has a set volume for it that he uses every time, but it could stand to be turned down a notch or two. Also, the cast could have better diction in the group numbers, particularly in Skimbleshanks (and the drummer could play softer on that song, too). Whenever soloists were singing from upstage, they couldn't be understood. Spit out those consonants!

I heard backstage chatter going on between the M&R number and the beginning of the Old Deuteronomy number. It's the old "quiet backstage" note.

The theater was frustratingly dark before the show and intermission. So dark, I couldn't read the program to find out about the wonderful performers I was seeing. I understand this was a directorial choice to set the mood, but it's one I have to respectfully disagree with. If you're going to see this show and have any hopes of being able to read, bring a flashlight.

And finally, the first soloist on the Macavity number needs more attitude.

I apologize if I spelled any character names wrong. You cats have such complicated names! Don't let the last section of my reivew deter you from seeing this show. This hard-working cast and director deserve your support. I dare say that John Christian is lucky to have Rob directing so often for him. (I have never worked with Rob - I'm just speaking as a patron who has seen the end result.) I also dare say that this production will be better than most of the community theater you're used to seeing. If you don't think so, you're probably a dog lover. [POST A COMMENT REGARDING THIS REVIEW]
Not Yet...On a Hot Tin Roof by Cavendish
Interesting experiment this is suddenly allowing a review for a Blackwell production. Will history repeat itself? I hope not. Then again, would this be happening if Dedalus and Okely (or others) had posted less-than-favorable reviews? Hmm, motivation isn't just important for actors but for theatre's as well it seems.


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