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Jellicle CATS Come to Saenger Theatre Next Week


Interview with Aiden Pressel

Jellicle CATS Come to Saenger Theatre Next Week
Photo Credit: Matthew Murphy/Murphymade

Andrew Lloyd Webber's memorable musical CATS comes to the Saenger Theatre next week, beginning December 14.

Since its premier on the London stage in 1981, CATS has been a hit in more than 30 countries and 15 languages. Winner of seven Tony Awards, including Best Musical, it's based on poet T.S. Eliot's "Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats," a guide to all kinds of cats from the streetwise stray to the pampered lap cat.

For the North American tour, the original score from Webber won't change, but it will be paired with new lighting design, sound design, and choreography, making "this production a new 'CATS' for a new generation." sat down with Aiden Pressel to talk with him about his roles as Plato and Macavity, working on the show as dance captain, and what makes CATS a lasting "Memory."

BroadwayWorld: What got you interested in performing?

Pressel: I always was interested in performing. My sister started in dance when she was really young. And...we would put costumes on in the basement and perform for my parents. And then later on in life, I did a production of OKLAHOMA my fifth-grade summer, and I met a lot of dancers who were in the show that said, 'You should really try dancing, you can naturally move,' and all these other things so I was like okay, and then I started dance and that kind of led me to musical theatre. And so here we are, which really, it was my sister that got me first interested in performing.

BroadwayWorld: How did you become involved with the show and what was the audition process like given it happened in the middle of the pandemic?

Pressel: For me, a lot of the process was virtual. Just via email, sending vocal tapes and dance tapes. I had done the commercial for the tour back in my junior year of college, so I had a connection with Kim Craven already; luckily, so a lot of it was through email for me because I had worked for her before. It was not as wild a process as I've heard others have had.

BroadwayWorld: With this touring production which artistic elements have been updated, and which have remained the same?

Pressel: Truly the biggest thing that's different about this production is that we're never going into the audience. So, there's a little less interaction in that sense. It's still a beautiful, beautiful story, beautiful musical. Just to stay safe in these times, we're keeping that to a minimum and just staying on stage. That's truly the biggest thing that's changed. All the dancing and wonderful music and acting and all of that has stayed the same.

BroadwayWorld: How do you play as Plato versus how you are as Macavity?

Pressel: So, Plato is sweet and kind and protective. I really align with Plato. Plato feels more like who I am as an individual on a daily basis. And then I have so much fun with Macavity simply because he's the complete opposite. He's hypnotic. He's jealous. He is the supervillain of the show. And he just causes all this chaos, and so it's really enjoying every single night to go from this sweet, caring, protective cat that has this beautiful pas de deux with Victoria to go into this evil supervillain that's stealing cats, stealing Old Deuteronomy, and fighting Munkustrap. It's really, really fun. It challenges me, which is really nice.

BroadwayWorld: What are some of the pressures/challenges of being dance captain?

Pressel: For me personally, and everyone will feel differently, dance captain is such a huge honor, truly. And I don't know if it's necessarily pressure, but it's this sense of wanting to be the best I can be all the time. To set an example, and to be a role model, and to be someone that people feel comfortable coming to and talking to. For me, my experience's just really truly trying to be the best I can be all the time and about having those great strong interpersonal connections with people but also being able to be like, 'Hey, just so you know we need to look at this or work on this because you're not doing it in the show right,' or learning how to gracefully give a correction or a note, and then also checking in with yourself and being able to be like, 'Hey I was wrong in that moment too, I will fix that, so I'm not making that same mistake,' if that makes sense.

BroadwayWorld: How long does it take you to get into full Macavity makeup each night?

Pressel: My change into Macavity I think is about six minutes. And truly, the only thing I do is paint an orange chin on myself. The rest, I have a wonderful, wonderful, wonderful person with me. Her name is Brooke, and she helps me every night. She does the rest of my makeup. Honestly, all together it may be a minute to do the makeup...It's fast.

BroadwayWorld: Why do you think CATS has endured?

Pressel: People love it, truly. Funny enough, it's like one of my dad's all-time favorite musicals. So, when he found out that this is what I was doing, he freaked out, but at the core of it all, it's a story about redemption and forgiveness, and compassion. It's very interesting as an audience member to come and watch all these cats and understand their stories and see how they interact with each other and just have a two-and-a-half-hour spectacle of dancing and singing. I think that's what it is.

It truly takes people out of everyday life and transports them into the junkyard and gives them just a moment to enjoy something other than real life, if that sounds wild or not. I think it's endured because of that, and I think there are some very diehard fans out there that really truly love this show, and I can only speak for this company, but this company really loves this show and really enjoys being able to share it every single night. So, yea, I think that's why it's endured.

BroadwayWorld: Any other thoughts for our Nola readers and audiences?

Pressel: I would say come and enjoy the junkyard with this incredible cast. We truly, truly are blessed. We have amazing, amazing performers, we an amazing crew, we have an amazing management team. So just come and take a night and enjoy it with us.

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