The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

What's Happening

February 23, 2012

'Cats' will play to sold-out audience at arts center

Tickets for the North American touring production of the Broadway musical “Cats” have sold out.

The feline feature will pounce onstage at 7:30 p.m. March 8 at Pasquerilla Performing Arts Center, Richland Township.

When he announced the arts center’s new season last year, executive director Michael Bodolosky said he had been trying to book the musical for several years.

“I never expected it to sell out so quickly,” said Bodolosky, who estimated that tickets were gone by early February. “This tells me this is what people really want to see and hear in Johnstown.

“I’m really happy with it, but I wish we could have a second show.”

The production has won seven Tonys, including best musical, and is a good introduction to Broadway for all ages.

The musical, which is based on “Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats” by T.S. Elliot, is one of the longest-running shows in Broadway history.

The story line is about a tribe of cats that gathers once a year when its leader chooses who will journey that night to the Heaviside layer, or heaven, to be reborn into a new life.

Chris Stevens, who grew up in Mayfair, near Philadelphia, is making his tour debut as Rum Tum Tugger, a rebel and ladies’ cat with a temperament that wants to turn everything serious into fun.

Composer Andrew Lloyd Webber has stated that the part is intended to be a homage to Mick Jagger of the Rolling Stones.

“In my research, I found he also relates to Elvis because he shakes his hips a lot,” Stevens said.

“He doesn’t take anything seriously. He wants to make it fun.

“He’s also a fan of the female cats. It’s a fun role to play.”

Stevens isn’t surprised that the Johnstown performance is a sellout.

“Fans just love the show,” he said.

“We play to a lot of sold-out audiences.”

Stevens, 22, is a graduate of DeSales University near Allentown and had auditioned for a part in “Cats” before without success.

This time, he took a train to New York on a Sunday, had an audition Monday, a callback on Tuesday and had the part by Thursday.

“Dancing is not my strongest point, and there are stronger dancers in the show than Tugger, but I’ve managed to pick up the steps,” Stevens said.

“We started rehearsals on Halloween in New York and opened Dec. 8 in Georgia.”

Makeup for the 20-plus cat characters in the show is a big undertaking, with each actor learning how to apply his or her own makeup.

“At first, it took me 90 minutes to get done, but now I have it down to 35 minutes,” Stevens said. “You don’t really get into character until you get into your full face and wig.”

The musical opened in London’s West End on May 11, 1981.

It’s U.S. opening was at Winter Garden Theater in New York City on Oct. 7, 1982.

“Cats” was considered to be the longest-running musical in the history of British theater when the show closed in London on May 11, 2002.

It became the longest-running musical on Broadway in 1997. It closed in New York on Sept. 10, 2000.

On May 11, 2001, “Cats” celebrated its 30th anniversary as the longest continuously touring Broadway musical in history.

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