Cats

Photo by Matthew Murphy

The cast of Cats gave this classic musical new life opening night with a high energy, fun and moving performance that ended with a standing ovation at San Jose Center for the Performing Arts Sept. 20.

Cats returned to San Jose for a limited one-week engagement as part of a new North American tour. Composed by Andrew Lloyd Webber and based on T.S. Elliot’s Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats, the musical features new sound design, direction and choreography for a new generation. The creative team of the new production includes Andy Blankenbuehler (choreography), Natasha Katz (lighting design), John Napier (scenic and costume design), Trevor Nunn (direction), and Mick Potter (sound design). The original Broadway production opened in 1982 at Broadway’s Winter Garden Theatre where is ran for 18 years.

Cats tells the story of a tribe of cats called Jellicles and the night they decide which cat will ascend to the Heaviside layer and come back to a new life.

Throughout the evening many of the musical numbers, with amazing choreography and vocals, received approval from the audience. It started in the first act with Michelle E. Carter as Jennyanddots in “The Old Gumbie Cat” number. The character Jennyanddots leads a tap-dancing routine that had the audience taping along and was followed by an enthusiastic applause. This was followed by Hank Santos giving a spot on portrayal of the cool curious cat Rum Tum Tugger. His performance drew giggles from the audience when the female cats swooned over him as he gyrated his hips. Act one ended with an emotionally stirring performance of “Memory” by Tayler Harris as Grizabella. Harris’ vocals were up to the task of singing this iconic song that had some of the audience wiping tears. In the second act she sang another version of “Memory” that was just as amazing with Sam Bello as Sillabub and Kade Wright as Munkustrap.

The second act had just as many treats for the audience. The “Gus the Theatre Cat” number featured an amusing performance by John Anker Bow as Asparagus a.k.a. Gus. Bow was very animated as the old and feeble theater star who reminisces about his heyday. With superb dance techniques and vocals, IBN Snell gave a lively performance as Mistoffelees in the “Magical Mister Mistoffelees” number. Costume design deserves credit too for the dazzling lit up jacket that Mistoffelee wore during this scene. The show wrapped up with an energetic finale that had audience members dancing their seats.

Additional performances are scheduled for Sept. 21 and 22 at 7:30 p.m.; Sept. 23 at 8 p.m.; Sept. 24 at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m.; and Sept. 25 at 1 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. Ticket prices are $38-138. For more information or to purchase tickets go to: broadwaysanjose.com.

Teresa Mills-Faraudo is an associate editor at Bay Area Parent.