Flat Rock, NC (8/22/2013) – Flat Rock Playhouse presents the international blockbuster musical, CATS, from September 4 through October 6 at the Playhouse Downtown. Based on the universally-popular poetry of T.S. Eliot, CATS tells the story of the annual ascension of one special cat to the Heaviside layer.
“CATS has been closed on Broadway since 2000,” said director Lisa K. Bryant. “It was an 18 year global phenomenon seen by millions, and earning billions. However, with that comes a certain amount of saturation and in general audiences were moving on to new pieces. However, 13 years later there are a couple of generations who either just missed seeing it before it closed, or who have been born since. It’s a new piece again on some level. Further, in true Lloyd Webber fashion it was written and intended to be a spectacle of rousing entertainment. Producing such a spectacle in the intimacy of our Downtown space is a pairing that invites a wonderful opportunity for the audience to be truly immersed in the production. It is the first time that a musical of this scale has been mounted in our Downtown theatre and it is sure to provide sensorial experiences for the audience that are unique to the smaller venue. The music includes a pulsing rock score, and athletic, contemporary dance is constant throughout. Add in the extraordinary design elements of lighting, costumes, and make-up and CATS is going to be an exciting new offering for our community and surrounding areas.”
Since CATS first opened on the West End stage in 1981, it has become one of the world’s best known and best loved musicals and has grossed over $1 billion. With a plot based on T.S Eliot’s Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats and award-winning music composed by Andrew Lloyd Webber, CATS, originally directed by Trevor Nunn, has since been presented in over 20 countries and in about 250 cities, including such diverse destinations as Buenos Aires, Seoul, Helsinki and Singapore.
The show has been translated into 10 languages: Japanese, German, (three versions for Germany, Austria and Switzerland), Hungarian, Norwegian, Finnish, Dutch, Swedish, French, Spanish (two versions for Mexico and Argentina) and Italian. The Swiss production required a bilingual cast who performed in German and English on alternate nights. The title of the show has rarely been translated, the Mexican producers did a survey as to whether the Mexican audience would like their production to be called Gatos – the response in favor of keeping the English original was unanimous.
The show has not only been presented in theatres, but also in tents in Japan and Korea, an engine shed in Switzerland, and school gymnasiums across the USA.
It won numerous awards, including Best Musical at both the Laurence Olivier Awards and the Tony Awards. The London production ran for twenty-one years and the Broadway production ran for eighteen years, both setting new records. Actresses Elaine Paige and Betty Buckley became particularly associated with the musical. One actress, Marlene Danielle, performed in the Broadway production for its entire run from 1982 until 2000
CATS is the second longest-running show in Broadway history, and the fourth longest-running West End musical.
The Flat Rock Playhouse production of CATS will be a unique immersive experience in which the scenic design will be all around the audience giving the feeling that the audience members are seated within the scrapyard where the musical is set.
The music is composed by famed theatre impresario Andrew Lloyd Webber. Several of his musicals have run for more than a decade both in the West End and on Broadway. He has composed 13 musicals, a song cycle, a set of variations, two film scores, and a Latin Requiem Mass. He has also gained a number of honors, including seven Tony Awards, three Grammy Awards, an Academy Award, fourteen Ivor Novello Awards, seven Olivier Awards, a Golden Globe Award, and the Kennedy Center Honors in 2006. Several of his songs have been widely recorded and were hits outside of their parent musicals, notably “The Music of the Night” from The Phantom of the Opera, “I Don’t Know How to Love Him” from Jesus Christ Superstar, “Don’t Cry for Me, Argentina” and “You Must Love Me” from Evita, “Any Dream Will Do” from Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat and “Memory” from CATS.
CATS is directed by Lisa K. Bryant. Choreography is by Jennifer Jancuska. Musical direction is by Eric Fotre Leach. The cast includes Danielle Lanae Burdick, Matthew Curtis, Nicholas Lorenzini, Emily McLoughlin, Kyle Anderson, Rachel Guest, Matthew Oaks, Nicole Pavone, Heather Siemienas, Christopher Michael Lacey, Maria Rodriguez, Chloe Fox, Brian Gregory Gephart, Willie Dee, Adam Richardson, Emily Holbert, Molly Bailey and Hannah Rose DeFlumeri as Grizabella.
Emily Holbert and Molly Bailey come from the Flat Rock Playhouse YouTheatre program. Where possible, the Playhouse uses current and former YouTheatre students in their professional productions. This meets their educational mission to provide training for theatre professionals. Recently, YouTheatre students were cast in the productions of Evita and Les Miserables where they had the opportunity to work alongside Broadway veterans.
“I love that we have YT students involved with this production,” said Bryant. “Moreover, I love that we’ve had so many youth involved throughout the 2013 season, which will continue with Disney’s Mulan Jr. and A Christmas Story. Providing our communities’ youth with high-end professional opportunities is a mission most children’s programs are simply unable to provide. Further, it is a built-in connection from the classroom to the stage, where they continue their training by learning from the professional actors and environment surrounding them. Beyond that, our kids are really talented. Providing opportunities for them to shine, and for the community to revel in the talents of its youth is a great source of pride to all of us.”
Bryant was previously a theatre instructor for Henderson County schools and has first-hand experience with arts education.
“I also believe that it is important in art for people to see themselves reflected in the stories we produce, and that includes kids. It encourages youth involvement in the arts either as the actors/designers themselves, or as active life-long audience participants. Also, the message and story, when presented to kids, by kids, has a lasting and keen impact on the youth in our audience that doesn’t always land with adults telling the story. Children have to listen to adults all the time. What a nice reprieve it is to be interactive with their own peer group when coming to see a play. I deeply value that our YouTheatre was created with the mission of kids performing for kids. Most children’s theatres in the country have adults performing for kids. However, that we are also able to include our young artists in the professional productions not only enriches those productions, but also speaks to the level of talent and training our YouTheatre students receive. When they take their professional lessons back to the classroom, it ups the ante for all of the class participants as they learn from each other and each other’s experiences. The training is full-circle and everyone benefits from the results.”
This is the second Andrew Lloyd Webber show of the Playhouse season after Evita, which was performed at the Flat Rock Playhouse Mainstage this summer.
TICKETS AND SCHEDULE
United Community Bank, The Van Winkle Law Firm and Audi Asheville presents CATS at Playhouse Downtown, September 4 – October 6. Performances will be Wednesday through Saturday at 8:00 pm; matinees Thursday, Saturday and Sunday at 2:00 pm. All tickets are $40 and can be purchased by calling the Playhouse box office at 828-693-0731, toll-free at 866-732-8008 or online at www.flatrockplayhouse.org. Discounts available for seniors, AAA members, military personnel, students and groups. Playhouse Downtown is located at 125 S. Main Street in Downtown Hendersonville, NC.
FACTS ABOUT CATS
- The original production opened at the New London Theatre, in the West End on 11 May 1981. Eight years later it celebrated its first important milestone: after 3,358 performances, CATS became the longest running musical in the history of the British theatre.
- On 29 January 1996 the London production of CATS celebrated its 6,141st performance and became the longest running musical in the history of West End theatre.
- In April 1999 the gross box office for the London production was over £115,363,000.00
- CATS opened on Broadway at the Winter Garden Theatre on October 7, 1982, and continued to live up to its motto of playing “Now and Forever” until September 2000.
- On 19 June 1997 the show became the longest running musical on Broadway.
- On October 1, 1991, CATS became the longest, continuously touring show in American theatre history.
- “Memory” has been recorded by a variety of over 150 artists ranging from Barbra Streisand and Johnny Mathis to Liberace. Barry Manilow’s rendition was a top-40 hit in the U.S.
- A techno/dance version by European singer Natalie Grant topped the European dance charts.
- The Original London Cast Recording of CATS won the 1982 Grammy Award for Best Cast Album. The next year the Original Broadway Cast Recording won the same award.