The Nederland Middle Senior High School performance of CATS opened to a full house and an extended standing ovation last Thursday night and every consecutive show just got better.
The audience walked out of the high school theater raving about the spectacular talent of the cast, the brilliant transformation via costume into the cat world and the impeccable communication of each song and dance number.
There must have been some magic in the cat costumes rented from Boulder Dinner Theatre. When the cast of cat characters pounced onto the stage boards, they became feline, light-footed, wary, cuddly, or cranky. They leaned out from the stage and peered intently into the audience’s eyes, with that strange catlike curiosity and distance.
Every actor assumed his or her cat’s personality, its quirks, its mannerisms, its fleas. The cats defied gravity. They exuded flexibility and stretchability not often seen in humans. The dances reflected sheer joy and grace.
If you were unable to see CATS last weekend, don’t despair, there are three more shows this coming weekend: Friday, April 17, at 7 p.m.; Saturday, April 18, at 1 p.m. and 7 p.m.
The curtain opens on a junkyard, with various broken billboards and shacks with old advertisements, some of them from current local businesses, which immediately gives the audience a sense of recognition. As the cats creep out from their lairs under the light of an immense full moon, the cast punches the Jellicle Songs for Jellicle Cats and the stage is set. The cats own it. The audience is lost in the spell that the cast weaves for the next two hours. It is drama and humor and ultimately compassion and redemption.
NHS senior Ben Rubio, in his last of many musical roles on the Ned stage, plays Old Deuteronomy and Rum Tum Tugger, one the powerful paternal figure of the Jellicles, the wise tribal leader, and the other a rock star, who has the ladies pawing at his fur. Rubio adapts both his voice and aura for the parts and commands the stage like a captain of a ship. He will be missed.
Cara Bloomquist as Grizabella, the aged Glamour Cat asking for another chance, nails her performance of the lament “Memory,” the tune that lingers long after the curtain closes. Bloomquist achieves the transformation from despondency to hope to joy through body language and facial expression with ease as her voice rises to match her eventual triumph.
As Alonzo and Macavity, Michael Wood has his breakout performance as he portrays the Mystery Cat who flies across the stage and wreaks havoc in the cats’ order of things. Wood’s dancing is eloquent and vicious as he strikes down the mighty Deuteronomy, bringing fear and darkness to the lives of the Jellicles.
Mr. Mistoffelees, played by Reyna Revelle, comes to the rescue. A small black and white cat who has the gift of magic brings back the light as well as Old Deuteronomy. Revelle’s dance is considered to be one of the most intricate and challenging of the show and her graceful and ballet-like performance is stunning.
As Gus, short for Asparagus, Emily Albright evoked bravos from the audience as she sang the story of the old cat’s former fame as an actor. Her poignant performance was consistent with her moments on stage since she is a middle-level student.
The stage stealer of the night was Kalina Culver’s portrayal of Jennyanydots, an immense flabby tabby cat who is known for sitting. When Culver comes bouncing and bobbling onto the stage, the audience erupts into howls of laughter, probably every one of them having known a very fat cat.
Playful and mischievous, the twins Mungojerrie and Rumpleteazer, almost identical in color, frolic and giggle on stage. Played by Emily Curcio and Anna Scott, the young cats enjoy making life miserable for their humans and add a bit of comedy to the story.
Hattie Bakke plays Skimbleshanks, the Railway Cat. Bakke leads the cast that assembles itself to form the night train, which cannot start without the cat in place. Bakke is already a veteran vocalist and seamlessly incorporates the dance into her song.
Every member of the cast excels in their performance and one of the unique aspects of CATS is that each of them has their moment in the spotlight. Every actor is his or her own cat and they stay in character throughout the show.
Director Liz Evans and assistant director Kathy Bremers and choreographers Ki Goodman and Jacob Taylor, both NMSHS theater department alumni, and technical director Joshua Lake, have done an exemplary job of bringing a high school production to a professional level. This performance raises the bar for the theater department. It is not to be missed.