You know you are in for a magical performance from the moment you enter the theater at DPAC and see strings of lights draped over the seats leading to the stage. It was a magical opening night for ‘CATS’ on Tuesday which is performing now at DPAC through this Sunday. Don’t have tickets yet? Don’t despair, there is a daily lottery for tickets that are just $35. I highly recommend you try and nab a ticket, it was a truly wonderful performance!
Now on to the show. What can I say about ‘CATS’ that hasn’t been said before? Well for one thing, this touring production based on the 2016 revival is every bit as captivating and moving as the original that opened on Broadway in 1982 where it had an amazing 18 year run. There is just something so special about seeing such a beloved show that has not only stood the test of time, but somehow managed to become even better now almost 40 years later.
The musical, based on T.S. Eliot’s book of poems “Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats” centers around a community of “Jellicle” cats who convene once a year in hopes of being chosen by the Old Deuteronomy, a father figure of a cat who is tasked with choosing one among the group to be taken above to be “reborn”. The audience is treated to a series of numbers throughout the show to introduce each cat as they try to prove themselves to be worthy of being selected.
The show has all the whimsy and spectacle of the original. With beautiful costumes and makeup that you get to admire up close as there are several points where the cats romp through the theater and interact with the audience. Known for it’s amazing score by Andrew Lloyd Weber, its the dancing during each of these numbers that really steals the show in my opinion.
While the show continues to delight with its amazing music and choreography, I found myself marveling at the incredible talent of the cast assembled for this touring production. For two high-energy acts they pour themselves into their roles and leave it all on stage. It is a real testament to the talent of the cast that they are able to deliver beautiful vocals while executing difficult dance routines that would leave a mere mortal out of breath.
‘CATS’ is not your classic character-based show with typical “central” characters, but there are some standout performances I just have to mention, like the awesome Tion Gaston who almost steals the show playing the high-energy and playful Mr. Mistoffelees. The number where he is introduced utilizes all the magic of the set and is one of the high points of the second act. Then there are Tony d’Alelio and Rose Iannaccone’s who have a wonderful mischievous chemistry as the Mungojerrie and Rumpelteazer.
I also need to give a shout out to Caitlin Bond, who plays the eye catching “White Cat” aka Victoria. At one point when the cats roamed the theater during a number I heard one of the younger theater goers yell “the white cat!” and run over to her to receive hug. It was a touching moment and a theater memory I’m sure that young fan will remember for a long time.
Finally, Keri Rene’ Fuller truly shines with her powerful vocals as the haunted lonely outcast Grizabella, a former fancy cat now shunned by the cat community. Dressed in shabby clothes, and limping hunched over slowly across the stage you can feel her pain and regret. Typically played by an older actor, 25 year old Fuller delivers a spot on performance proving she is up to the challenge of filling such an iconic role, and her rendition of the most popular number in the show, “Memory” gave me chills and had the crowd at DPAC on their feet.
The song “Memory” remains a surefire showstopper. Keri Rene Fuller as Grizabella, shabbily dressed in gray rags and long-laced boots, as if she’d wandered in from a Tim Burton movie, delivers it almost as if it’s an operatic aria, and on Tuesday night received a long warm ovation for her efforts.
After almost 40 years the excitement and magic of ‘CATS’ is still going strong and with this committed cast this production is truly not to be missed. Whether your seeing this classic for the first time or returning for the 30th time try to catch this magical at DPAC before these CATS hit the road to enchant another city.
‘CATS!’ performs at DPAC through Sunday, June 9th . For tickets visit: https://www.dpacnc.com/events/detail/cats