Based on T.S Elliot's 'Old Possum's Book Of Practical Cats', Andrew Lloyd Webber's record-breaking musical Cats is about to embark on a UK tour. Premiering at the Edinburgh Playhouse on 9th February the tour plays it's first English venue in Wolverhampton at the Grand Theatre for two weeks beginning 19th March.
With an impressive back-catalogue that includes Hairspray, We Will Rock You, Wicked, Love Never Dies, The Wizard of Oz and most recently the UK Tour of Wonderful Town and the Wyvern Theatre's pantomime Aladdin, Assistant Musical Director Ben Kennedy is excited to be bringing Cats back to the Midlands where he grew up.
"I lived in Codsall all of my life so I've been to the Wolverhampton Grand Theatre on many occasions - from an audience member watching shows during my teenage years and more recently as a pit musician working on the touring shows which I started doing in 2007. I'm delighted that Cats is coming to the Grand for two weeks and I'm sure that Wolverhampton audiences will be delighted with the show!"
Cats ran for exactly 21 years in the West End between 11th May 1981 and 11th May 2002 and is currently back in London for the rehearsal process of a brand new tour.
Rehearsing Skimbleshanks The Railway Cat.
(Photographs by kind permission of Joanna Ampil.)
"Rehearsals are going very well at the moment, we currently have only one week left in London before we move up to Edinburgh for tech week and dress rehearsals at the Playhouse Theatre. A typical day in the rehearsal room starts with a thorough physical warm-up so that all of our company are totally prepared to work on the show, which is one of the most physically demanding shows in the musical theatre genre. We then do a vocal warm-up (as the show is also a demanding sing!), before starting work on the show itself.
We spent the initial part of the rehearsal period working on different sections of the show and putting all of the choreography together and learning all of the music. We are now at the stage of running the whole show - which is such an exciting part of the process!"
Cats has not only broken long-run records in the West End (21 years) and on Broadway (18 years) but has seen productions across the world including Madrid, Zurich, Sydney, Warsaw, São Paulo and Budapest to name but a few. The show has been translated into 10 different languages including Japanese however the show's title has rarely been changed. The Mexican people voted unanimously in favour of keeping 'Cats' as opposed to translating to 'Gatos'. The show has not only been presented in theatres but in tents in Japan and Korea as well as an engine shed in Switzerland. Perhaps the most recognisable version of the show however is the film version recorded at the Adelphi Theatre and released in 1998 starring Elaine Page and John Partridge. Fans should be pleased to discover the 2013 UK tour stays loyal to the much-loved favourite.
"This is very much the Cats everyone knows so well. Chrissie Cartwright is directing and choreographing the production, bringing Gillian Lynne's brilliant original choreography to the stage once again. We were very lucky to have Gillian visit us in rehearsals this week, which was inspirational to all of us."
Cameron Ball rehearsing as Macavity.
"Cats is such an exciting score to play. Firstly, as there are no dialogue scenes we are playing throughout the entire show, so we are kept very busy indeed. Secondly, Andrew Lloyd Webber has incorporated such a great variety of musical styles into the score that each section has it's own challenges. The result is a gripping piece of musical theatre, and demands a high level of continued concentration throughout. A good amount of the music in the show accompanies detailed choreography so we have to be totally focussed in order to give the company the perfect tempi, musicality and phrasing at all times. As Assistant Musical Director I get not only the pleasure of playing the beautiful score but also conducting one or two performances each week - which I'm looking forward to immensely!"
Dance rehearsals require extreme precision.
Cats has featured many well-known and much loved theatre stars in it's time including Elaine Page, Wayne Sleep, Bonnie Langford, Paul Nicholas, Brian Blessed, Sarah Brightman, John Partridge and Louie Spence. This brand new tour also has it's share of stars as musical theatre favourite Joanna Ampil leads as Grizabella. Joining Joanna is Les Misérables' Oliver Savile as Rum Tum Tugger, Nicholas Pound as Old Deuteronomy, Joseph Poulton as Mr Mistoffelees, Cameron Ball as Macavity and Katy Warsop as Rumpleteazer.
You can book tickets to re-live the memory of Cats at the Wolverhampton Grand Theatre from 19th - 30th March online here.