CATS…. Frolics Onto The Stage And Into Your Heart!
by Olin Meadows
The historic Georgetown Palace Theatre is producing one of its largest productions to date. CATS, the landmark musical by musical theatre genius Andrew Lloyd Webber and based on the book “Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats” by T.S. Eliot. The Palace produced this show once before in 2007, but this time during their “All Star Season” they have added so much more to this production! Both Palace productions have been directed by Palace favorite Clifford Butler, and boy did he do a great job.
I have always said both as a critic and a director-producer that casting the show is half the battle, Butler did a great job in casting, each actor is so thoroughly engaged in their role of being a cat, they have more energy than a litter of new kittens, and always look like they are having the time of their life while performing it! The first thing that takes your breath away is the opening of the curtain, and the incredible and high class scenic design created by the Director himself, with details hand painted by scenic artist Barb Jernigan and Sue Williams. The floor of the stage is a work of art alone, not to mention the levels and layers each with truly remarkable details. The set is only a portion of what makes this show so appealing, the lighting design by Sam Kokajko with over four hundred light cues alone, is Broadway quality, truly a spectacle that brings out all of the magic and mystery of this fun story. The technical aspects of this show alone make it worth seeing.
It may seem like I have left out the actors, but I was simply saving the best for last! The entire cast all thirty of them are remarkable, each actor gives the nuances of cats in all their Jellicle forms with such attention to detail you never know where to look for fear of missing something else equally as wonderful. If I was to name them all off this review would be pages long, so I will simply add a note about a few of the truly standout performers and let you pick your favorite when you go see this show. Phil Rodriguez as Rum Tum Tugger, is a fierce and feisty beast full of animal magnetism (the lady cats in the audience will surely swoon), not to be out done is Macavity played by Matthew Charles Burnet. Demeter performed by Jennifer Butler along with Jennyanydots created by Samantha Watson are two of the prettiest cats on the block, both can sing, act and most definitely dance like no other cats! Watsons tap number at the top of the show is a smashing hit! Speaking of dancing, Brice Rafferty gives the audience a true treat as he dances across the stage as the magician cat, Mr. Mistoffelees. One my personal highlights of the show is Ismael Soto performing his title song as Skimbleshanks, the railway cat. Soto’s performance is full of fun, joy, and talent proving he is one cat of the railway that will always show you a good time. Director Butler also does a great job with some really cute and creative staging here.
The stars of this show are without a doubt, Christine Jean-Jacques as Bombolurina and Leslie Hethcox as Munkustrap who carry a large portion of the shows storytelling with the easy and attitude of true regal felines. Hethcox and Jean-Jacques are both gifted vocalist and actors, however Hethcox takes top cat with his incredible dancing I could not take my eyes off him. Guiding stellar cast is Curt Olson as the grandfather cat, Old Dueteronomy who gives thought in every move. Saving the best for last, I need to take a moment to thank Michelle Hache as Grizabella, for giving us a performance of a lifetime. Hache as Grizabella tells so much of her characters story without ever uttering a word, and when she does the show stops to watch her grace and elegance reach out and grab the audience by their heart.
The production is a wondrous, and thrilling show from start to finish, you will regret not seeing this show. I give a 6 out of 5 stars to this production, hands down the best show I have ever seen at the palace theatre and one of the best I have ever seen anywhere! Bravo!
CATS continues to run through March 23, 2014 at the historic Palace Theatre, Springer Memorial Stage with performances Friday-Sat at 7:30pm and Saturdays and Sundays at 2:30pm. Ticket prices are $10 – $26. The Palace Theatre is located at 810 South Austin Avenue – Georgetown, TX 78626 Tickets are available at http://www.GeorgetownPalace.org or by calling 512-869-SHOW (7469).