26 Cats Making Noise in the Alley
I hesitated simply because everyone likes to deride the musical as much ado about almost nothing. Yet I secretly loved the song "Memory." I loved just about everything by Andrew Lloyd Webber, going back to his music on the initial release of the album Jesus Christ Superstar. Plus, I had my English-major crush on T.S. Elliott during college, and while "Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats" didn't rise to the level of "The Waste Land," it was still written by one of the century's great poetic minds. How could I not see Cats?
Given the negative buildup, I was quite surprised. I wasn't expecting depth, but I got cleverness. I wasn't expecting to be moved, but I was entertained. It was a delightful surprise. I have to thank all the pooh-poohing about the show. It set me up to be unexpectedly charmed. All and all, Cats is a pretty good spectacle.
Now comes the Albuquerque production. Remember, Cats ran for almost two decades on Broadway. That means that many of the performers spent years perfecting their delivery. The show attracted top-level dancers, singers, and acrobats. The producers spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on staging and costumes. How on earth could ALT compete, given a modest budget and just a few weeks of rehearsal?
I'm happy to say they have done a remarkable job. Fully catted-up cast members slink around the lobby and up and down the aisles before the performance. The costumes and make-up are excellent, even at a close view. Thanks go to costume designers Jaime Pardo and Peggy Wells, as well as six wardrobe and make-up assistants. Once the show blasts forward, it is Cats through and through. There was the occasional opening-night stumble and mic misfire, but I trust that has been corrected for subsequent performances. Fact is, the cast and production crew at ALT deliver all the charm and shiny glory of this fun feline romp.
Kudos to director TJ Bowlin for taking on this ambitious project and delivering it with respect, affection and enthusiasm. This is a performance of constant dance and acrobatics. Good job on the choreography by co-chiefs Edye Allen and Stephanie Burch. The performers do it all to music and in full voicenice delivery by music director Cheryl Sharps. Cats is the ensemble performance of all ensemble performances, so it's the whole cast that must deliver, and the whole bunch of them deliver well.
Cats will run at Albuquerque Little Theatre, 224 San Pasquale SW, through March 23. The show starts at 7:30 pm on Fridays and Saturdays, and at 2:00 pm on Sundays. There will be a special performance at 2:00 pm on Saturday, March 22. Tickets are $22 for adults, $20 for seniors (65 and above), $18 for students (13 and above), and $10 for children (12 and under). You can buy tickets online at albuquerquelittletheatre.org or by phone at 242-4750, ext. 2.