The Rapidian

Circle Theatre honors Long-time Broadway Favourite with CATS

Circle Theatre offers a two-hour cat dance soiree invitation with their 2016 season opener of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s CATS. Performances are May 6 & 7, 11-14, 18-21 at 7:30 p.m. and May 15 at 5 p.m at the Aquinas College Performing Arts Center
The Ensemble, a motley crew, taught how to talk to cats.

The Ensemble, a motley crew, taught how to talk to cats. /Bryan Esler

Community Circle Theatre presents Andrew Lloyd Webber’s CATS

Community Circle Theatre presents Andrew Lloyd Webber’s CATS

May 6 & 7, 11-14, 18-21 at 7:30 p.m. and May 15 at 5 p.m

 

Aquinas College Performing Arts Center

1607 Robinson Road SE

Grand Rapids, MI 49506

Tickets are $27 and are available via their website: www.circletheatre.org or by calling their box office at 616-456-6656

A commanding performance by Stephen Grey as Munkustrap

A commanding performance by Stephen Grey as Munkustrap /Bryan Esler

The Ol' Gumbie Cat, portrayed by Stacey Wykoski, yawns between lectures and cabaret numbers.

The Ol' Gumbie Cat, portrayed by Stacey Wykoski, yawns between lectures and cabaret numbers. /Bryan Esler

Tickets are $27 and are available via their website: www.circletheatre.org or by calling their box office at 616-456-6656

On a high-energy opening night, Circle Theatre offered a two-hour dance soiree to an eager and beaming audience with their 2016 season opener of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s CATS.  A trash can-lined, back alley at night paraded a special cadre of festive felines of various colours, shapes, and ages.  Welcome to the annual Jellicle Ball!

 

THE STORY

CATS tells the story of the annual gathering of Jellicle cats at which time one special cat is selected to ascend to the Heaviside layer and be reborn in Jellicle society.  From Bustopher Jones (the cat about town), to Asparagus the Theatre Cat (a palsy-stricken, retired actor), to Grizabella (the mysterious ex-glamour cat), all cats’ stories are told, leaving old and benevolent Deuteronomy, the Jellicle-Sage Cat Elder to choose what special cat will go “Up, up up, to the Heaviside layer” after the Jellicle Ball.  One of the longest-running musicals on both West End and Broadway, the story is a delightful and magical party to which the felines have given us a sneak peak.

THE ACTORS

Simply put, the energy of the actors flowed constantly for two hours.

The feline ensemble was ever present, with their cat behaviour en pointe, and constant choreography to boot. Even in the moments of stillness, where the ensemble placed themselves at the very outskirts of the stage and aisles, their actions were active and engaging, ask the while doing their party to push the stories forward.

Most notably, this reviewer enjoyed the cat-made boat during the thrilling vignette of Growltiger. When a group comes together and flows together, it is amazing. Kudos to the ensemble!

Some special cats that stood out included: Stephen Grey as Munkustrap, a multi faceted character who helps the audience along the path of the story. Mr. Grey's energy never faltered, even through the epic tale of Growltiger, making a charming performance all around.

The choice of coloratura Kelsey Kohlenberger as the enchantingly old Deuteronomy was brilliant. Humble to the eye in her layers upon layers of grey furs and such, her voice pierced through and brought both power and charm to the role.

The same shall be said about Stacey Wykoski as the Gumbie cat, tap-dancing her way into my heart, and Rachel Varley as Bombalurina, who seductively purred for my intrigue about Macavity (and got it.)

THE STAGE MAGIC

As far as production value, each represented their worth to the script elegantly. The set was simple, yet trashed and dimly lit as an alley needs to be. Though when flair was needed, flair was brought, mostly from lighting. The costumes were fitting and full of flair. There's something to be said for the original costuming of CATS. The best way for these actors to move on stage and be so present, is to be covered in fabric, but not sweating to death! Unitards for everyone wad the smart choice then, and this production followed suit appropriately. (Pardon the pun.)  

Attention should be paid to the brilliant make-up for this production. Erick Gerson has made the most stunning and detailed faces for each character.

From nose to toe, These cats were pristine.

REVIEWERS FINAL WORD

As Gus, the old, palsy-stricken Theater Cat says, “These modern productions are all very well, but there's nothing to equal, from what I hear tell, that moment of mystery, when I made history, as Firefrorefiddle, the fiend of the fell.” Sometimes doing a thrilling throwback is the perfect way to say, “Are you ready for a fun season?” I commend you, Circle Theater, on giving me just that, a stunning classic to wet my palate for your coming summer.

COMPANY DETAILS

For sixty years and counting, Circle Theatre has enriched, entertained and educated the community through exceptional theatrical arts in an intimate setting. Located in the Performing Arts Center on the campus of Aquinas College, Circle Theatre presents innovative and entertaining theatre while fostering an enthusiastic and hard-working corps of individuals who serve as staff, volunteers and board members. Through the Main Stage season, unique Summer Concert Series and Magic Circle family productions, Circle Theatre engages close to 30,000 people each season. Circle Theatre also values and creates effective collaborations with various community organizations in and around Grand Rapids.

The cast of CATS includes: Kobe Brown, Mia Brown, Brooke Bruce, Jonathan Calkins, Molly Cope, Donald Curry, Aaron Czarnecki Hannah Elliot, Liz Farrell, Shane German, Delaney Good, Randle Green, Stephen Grey, Titus Hankins, Tia Hawkes, Kelsey Kohlenberger, Lizzie Mathias, Michelle Matson, Sophia McIntosh, Mieke Moll, Ryan Owen, Royce Robinson, Allison Simmons, Bonnie Smith, Rachel Varley, Amaya Wiseman, and Stacey Wykoski.

For more information about Circle Theatre and their 2016 Season, please visit their website at www.circletheatre.org

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