Written by Andrew Lloyd Webber and based off of T.S. Eliot’s poetry, Cats has well and truly made its mark on the world of Musical Theatre.
The 4th longest running show on both Broadway and the West End, Cats is also the recipient of 2 Olivier Awards, 7 Tony Awards, a Grammy, and has one of the most recognisable songs in Musical Theatre history – “Memory.” The physical demand the show places on performers is almost inconceivable, and only true triple threats succeed in the world of the Jellicles.
The Young Australian Broadway Chorus, a Music Theatre-based extracurricular course, is producing the show, with a cast of almost 100 under-21’s. These Summer productions are open to anyone who applies, not just students of the program. This is their third full-scale show, following a wildly successful Wicked in 2018, and a sell-out season of Les Miserables in 2019. If you’ve been a scaredy-cat and avoided the show for this long, I implore you to reserve your preconceptions and experience it for yourself.
This new production is a love-letter to the 1930s, the decade in which T.S. Eliot wrote Old Possum’s Book Of Practical Cats. St. Kilda’s National Theatre will be transformed into an old-timey Music Hall during the Great Depression, including some dazzling 20s and 30s style costumes designed specifically for the show by Sean Rentero. Audiences will be fully transported back in time, with the cast getting fully into ‘cat-mode,’ crawling through aisles and up stairways amongst the seating banks.
“I’ve taken the design inspiration for this show away from the traditional junkyard and into a setting that evokes a faded opulence,” said director Robert Coates. “We want to literally immerse the audience in the story so we will not only be creating stunning original sets for the stage, but the experience will also extend into the auditorium.”
With their production opening this week, I had a chat with lead cast members Caitlin McNamara and Patrick Rogers, who play Victoria and Skimbleshanks respectively.
How has your experience of working on the show been so far?
Caitlin: The best way to describe it is manic, but in the best way. We are working so hard every minute of every day to get this show together, in the short time space that we have, so it’s just been go go go! In saying that, this has been one of the best experiences I’ve had since moving to Melbourne. I feel very lucky that I can say that I got cast in my dream role – not many can say that!
Patrick: My experience has been amazing. Being one of the leads in a diverse and talented group has been such a blessing. Seeing what everyone has to offer and giving 100% to the songs, the dances and the entire show gives me the drive to be the best I can and give my best performance alongside these amazing artists.
What has been the most challenging part of Cats?
Caitlin: For me, this show is quite physically demanding! Lots of legs, lifts, jumps etc., so my biggest challenge is to perform the show to my fullest capacity, whilst also taking care of my body.
Patrick: As this is my first full dance show, I have found the dancing to be a challenge, but it’s been a fun challenge. I have worked hard with my fellow cast members to get the quality of performance to a very high standard. Cats is an amazing show that everyone can enjoy, just as much as we have all enjoyed learning and rehearsing will the audience enjoy watching.
Why should people come and see the show?
Caitlin: I love our show because of how talented the cast is. It has been surreal for me to work with these driven talents. It’s so exciting for me because my dream role has always been Victoria so creating my version of her has been a great experience for me! I also love the choreography particularly in Macavity and Jellicle Ball.
Patrick: The immense dance styles our choreographer Jacqui Green has managed to fit into the show is amazing. Staying in character throughout the show, not dropping back into being a human has been a trial but has shown me the work involved in continuously being engaged. In addition, the songs in Cats are all amazing – they are so diverse. No two songs are the same, and so it allows us to cater to everyone coming to the show – whether it’s your Cats lovers, or the first-time musical goers, it has something for everyone.
YABC’s production of Cats opens at The National Theatre, Melbourne, on Friday 17 January.
Tickets and more information are available at catsmusical.com.au