More than nine lives

The world-famous musical ‘Cats’ is coming to Tel Aviv.

The West End production of ‘Cats’ will be performed in Tel Aviv (photo credit: PR)
The West End production of ‘Cats’ will be performed in Tel Aviv
(photo credit: PR)
If you happen to spot eight large trucks pulling up to the side entrance of the Tel Aviv Mann Auditorium (Heichal Hatarbut) in the coming days, you can be sure that you are witnessing the longawaited arrival of Cats in Israel.
The musical, which premiered in 1981, will touch down next week for a round of shows before heading back to reclaim its place in London’s West End. Cats is one of the most celebrated musicals of all time, having broken the record for the longest-running musical both on Broadway and in London’s West End. To date, more than 50 million people worldwide have seen the award-winning show.
Based on T.S. Eliot’s Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats, the musical tells the story of a feline society led by a cat called Old Deuteronomy. With music by Andrew Lloyd Weber, the tunes of Cats have become household melodies, etched in the annals of contemporary culture. John Napier’s elaborate costumes and set for Cats, which require the aforementioned eight large trucks to move around, are unlike that of any other show in their grandeur and elegance.
After 21 years, Cats closed in London in 2002. In the following years, the show continued to tour throughout the US, Europe and Asia. In February of last year, Cats was restaged with a new cast. The new evolution of Cats, using Trevor Nunn’s direction and Gillian Lynne’s choreography, premiered in Edinburgh before heading off on a tour throughout the UK and Europe.
For resident director Marina Stevenson, Cats is not just a show, it’s a way of life.
“I’ve been connected to the show for too many years to admit. My involvement with Cats began in 1989, when I was cast in the first UK tour,” she says.
Stevenson set aside a moment to chat while on vacation in Spain, taking advantage of a rare break in the rehearsal and tour schedule for some R&R.
With her intimate knowledge of the inner workings of the production, Stevenson was a natural choice for the new Cats endeavor. In January of 2013, Stevenson joined Chrissie Cartwright in the restaging of the show. She has spent the past 22 months fine-tuning the ins and outs of the show, working to bring out the feline in each of the 30 cast members.
“We have a great cast. The performers you will see are relatively new; they joined us in April. They are really wonderful. So much so that when Andrew Lloyd Webber and Trevor Nunn came to see the production, they immediately decided that it had to be brought back to the West End,” says Stevenson.
In the musical theater community, Cats is known for being a very demanding show. Prancing around for more than an hour in a full fur ensemble with added facial hair, wigs and layers of makeup is a true feat.
“The biggest challenge is maintaining the energy level. It’s got to be the most physically demanding show for actors, singers and dancers that there is around. When you do eight or nine shows a week, it’s really tiring. Sometimes to keep going, you switch on to automatic. My job and challenge as resident director is to keep everyone engaging,” she says.
Reviving Cats has given Stevenson an opportunity to fall in love with the musical all over again, she says.
“It’s such an original concept.
When it premiered in 1981, no one had ever seen anything like it before.
There had never been a show like Cats, and in 2014 there still hasn’t been. It’s not a story that you see and forget but something that you can take with you,” she says.
Cats will run at the Mann Auditorium in Tel Aviv from November 5 through 16. Tickets start at NIS 285.
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