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BWW Review: CATS at Rochester Broadway Theatre League


Jellicles can and Jellicles do!

BWW Review: CATS at Rochester Broadway Theatre League

After an 18-month intermission, theatre is back once again in Rochester. Like thousands of other performance venues across the country, RBTL's Auditorium Theatre has been shuttered since March 2020 as New York State and the world grapple with the fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic. While COVID is unfortunately still with us (PLEASE get vaccinated if you haven't already!) our state and national leaders have given the green light to resume in-person theatre, as long as modest safety precautions are put in place. At the Auditorium Theatre, that means mandatory masking regardless of vaccination status and no concessions for purchase, a small price to pay for getting to say goodbye to Zoom theatre once and for all.

To mark its triumphant return RBTL presented "Cats", the 1981 Andrew Llyod Webber classic based on the 1939 poetry collection "Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats" by T. S. Eliot. "Cats" brings together a tribe of Jellicle Cats on a moonlit evening, who must make the "Jellicle choice" to decide which of them will ascend to the mysterious Heaviside Layer to be reborn. Act 1 of Cats mostly features the introduction of the various players of the Jellicle tribe; notably Rum Tum Tugger (Zach Bravo), Grizabella (Tayler Harris), Bustopher Jones (John Anker Bow), and Old Deuteronomy (Indalecio De Jesus Valentin). Act 2 focuses on the capture of Old Deuteronomy by the "most wanted" villain cat Macavity (Aiden Pressel).

Anyone who has seen "Cats" live would probably agree that it's more of an experience than a plot-driven narrative journey; think more "Cirque du Soleil" and less "Les Miserables." Featuring everything from emotional ballots to hard rock to what can only be described as mystical cat ballet, "Cats" is a pretty wild ride, and won't be to the taste of every audience member. In an age where nearly every new musical is a movie adaptation or a Disney property, it's certainly not a show that would get green-lit today, which speaks to the evolving nature of theatre and the eclectic tastes of 1980s theatre-goers and theatre-makers. That said, this production of "Cats" is of the highest production value and very well-executed, with top-notch music, technical elements, and standout solo performances, particularly Harris' iconic "Memory."

"Cats" was performed at RBTL's Auditorium Theatre from September 21-26, and the North American Tour will continue in Omaha, NE beginning on September 28. Next in RBTL's Broadway series is "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, beginning November 16th; for tickets and more information, click here.

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From This Author Colin Fleming-Stumpf