This ‘Cats’ Adaptation Has the Kids Singing & More Trending News


Heather Biddle, the theater director at J.J. Pearce High School in Richardson, Texas, wished to placed on a manufacturing of “Cats” for therefore lengthy it turned one thing of a comedy bit.

Back in August 2020, following months of the pandemic shutdown and dealing with a yr of distant studying, her college students made commemorative T-shirts that learn “At least we didn’t do ‘Cats.’”

That all modified this month, when Biddle lastly received her want.

She staged considered one of the nation’s first productions of “Cats: Young Actors Edition,” a one-hour model of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s hit 1981 musical, tailored by iTheatrics for Concord Theatricals, and launched to colleges throughout North America final fall. And as Biddle had anticipated, her college students — a lot of whom principally knew the present in the context of its ill-fated 2019 cinematic adaptation — got here round to it.

“I text Biddle all the time, ‘I’m no longer a ‘Cats’ hater!’” Ainsley Ross, a senior and the manufacturing’s musical director, stated throughout a break from rehearsals on May 10. “Now that I’m working on it, I love it so much.”

At a gown rehearsal inside the college’s auditorium three days earlier than the present opened, the nervous vitality was palpable. Dozens of youngsters ran about in scruffy bodysuits that had been hand painted by fellow college students and Biddle.

Spencer Van Goor, a sophomore who performed Rum Tum Tugger, purred “Hello, gorgeous” to a teased out wig as he picked it up off the stage and put it on his head. “I’ve wanted to do this show for nine years now,” the 15-year-old stated. “I really like the dance and the music; it’s exotic and weird.”

Amelia Pinney, a junior who not solely took on the dance-heavy position of Bombalurina but in addition choreographed the total present, moved in tandem with Isabella Denissen, a junior who performed Demeter. They had been as hooked up at the hip as their two characters can be all through the present.

“It’s mesmerizing. It’s so different from any other show that’s been done,” Pinney stated wistfully.

In the greenroom, college students paced excitedly as they waited to get made up as cats. “You look like a sleep paralysis demon,” one actor instructed one other, which received fun from the bigger group. The college students practiced their dance strikes, twirling their palms, spinning their our bodies, and kicking up pointed toes. They manically mentioned their different favourite musicals. They all agreed that Hailey Gibson, a sophomore forged as Grizabella, was going to blow everybody away together with her rendition of “Memory.”

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Concord Theatricals, the licensing home that represents the stage licensing rights to the Andrew Lloyd Webber catalog in North America, has lengthy made 60-minute, kid-friendly variations of different stage works in its assortment, similar to Rodgers & Hammerstein’s “The Sound of Music” and Cole Porter’s “Anything Goes,” which J.J. Pearce college students carried out final fall.

“These editions do hundreds of performances a year; they are a gateway to theater,” stated Imogen Lloyd Webber, a daughter of Andrew Lloyd Webber, and Concord’s senior vice chairman of communications.

When the firm determined to adapt Lloyd Webber’s work for youthful performers and audiences, “Cats” was an apparent first selection. “It’s an ensemble show,” Imogen Lloyd Webber stated. “Everybody’s got a part. Everybody can do a number. You can go mad with the costumes and the sets and the choreography.”

“And if you think about it, T.S. Eliot’s ‘Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats’ was originally a children’s poem,” she stated, referring to the playful assortment of poetry that makes up most of the musical’s e book. “It made sense. Obviously, internally we’ve been calling it ‘Kittens’.”

Van Goor, who was considered one of 32 college students to carry out in the manufacturing (5 others contributed technical assist), additionally appreciated that “Cats” is a real ensemble. “Technically everyone gets their own little feature,” he stated. Though largely a plotless extravaganza, the musical is ready in a junkyard the place a bunch of so-called Jellicle cats have gathered for an annual celebration.

“Cats: Young Actors Edition,” which is transposed in larger keys which can be higher fitted to youthful voices, was made with middle-school performers in thoughts. But Biddle actually wished it for her excessive schoolers. Most of them have labored with Biddle since they had been 12 or 13, taking part in her fashionable all-ages college summer time program.

The present was J.J. Pearce’s first manufacturing with none pandemic precautions, like restricted seating, masked performers or a masked viewers. Three days after the rehearsal, there was nonetheless a vibrant vitality amongst the college students at their 2 p.m. present on Friday, which had been organized not just for the performers’ highschool classmates but in addition for native center schoolers who had been bused over after taking their annual standardized assessments. Preteens and youngsters could have a popularity for not paying shut consideration at school-sponsored occasions, however the auditorium was silent when the descending riff of the musical’s opening quantity, “Prologue: Jellicle Songs for Jellicle Cats,” started.

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As the present went on, Biddle’s performers weren’t the solely ones coming round to the concept of “Cats.” The viewers appeared simply as entranced by the musical, which is equal components spooky, foolish and mawkish. Though some momentary loud shuffling occurred when the interval bell rang, dozens of scholars remained rapt of their seats, cheering alongside to Van Goor’s provocative efficiency of “The Rum Tum Tugger” and when Pinney and others did again flips and handsprings onstage.

When the home lights rose after the efficiency, the highschool college students who had been in the viewers ran backstage to congratulate their pals.

And the performers? They had been basking in the second, thrilled that that they had pulled off the present. They’d accomplished “Cats”! And they’d do it once more that night and the subsequent day.

When requested if this manufacturing was every thing she hoped it will be, Biddle replied, and not using a second’s hesitation: “I think people were shocked at how much they loved the show. It was worth the wait and I love that we converted a whole new group of ‘Cats’ lovers. ‘Cats’ now and forever!”

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