‘Cats’ creates wondrous, whimsical experience

By Logan A. White
Times-News correspondent 


Dan Hoy stars as Munkustrap in the national touring production of "Cats." [Matthew Murphy

DURHAM — Journey to the junkyard and witness a monumental night in the mysterious, magical lives of a feline tribe. “Cats” will be performed today through Sunday at Durham Performing Arts Center (DPAC), 123 Vivian St.
Based on the winding, whimsical poems of T. S. Eliot, Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “Cats” lives up to its name, both literally and metaphorically.
The renowned musical follows the Jellicle Cats over the course of one night as they carry on the tradition of selecting a cat to ascend to the Heaviside Layer — known as the Jellicle Choice — and be reborn. Unlike most musicals, “Cats” has no dialogue outside of each musical number, instead styled like a revue that tells one interconnected story.
As the house lights dim, the audience is swept away as the theater is transformed into the junkyard home of the Jellicles, who break the invisible “fourth wall” to reveal the mysteries of cats to humans. Every song reveals a new layer of complexity in the cat, explaining tribal traditions such as the naming of cats to the annual Jellicle Ball. A myriad of colorful characters are introduced through the poetry of song, from the Elvis-esque Rum Tum Tugger (McGee Maddox) to the outcast Grizabella (Keri René Fuller) to the magical Mister Mistoffelees (Tion Gaston). The evening comes to a climax when their leader, Old Deuteronomy (Brandon Michael Nase), is threatened by Macavity (Tyler John Logan), the “Napoleon of Crime”.
Featuring a myriad of demanding dance styles and musical genres, “Cats” is a masterpiece in every form, creating a complete world through visual effects and the power of suggestion. Caitlin Bond is delightfully youthful as the kitten Victoria, executing the opening adagio with ethereal control and soaring extensions. Kaitlyn Davidson wows as the unassuming Jennyanydots, leading an exciting tap number with impeccable technique and shining personality. Tony d’Alelio and Rose Iannaccone, on the other hand, are fiendishly mischievous as the twin tabby thieves Mungojerrie and Rumpelteazer.
The show’s natural standout, however, is Tion Gaston. Performing endless pirouettes and jumps that defy gravity, Gaston’s Mistoffelees seems effortless, wowing the audience during what is undoubtedly the most demanding dance number of the musical without breaking a sweat. The set itself is incredible, filled with oversized props that emulate a junkyard so realistically it’s enthralling. The cast as a whole is magnificent, perfectly capturing the quirks and characteristics of felines by utilizing only their movements to “become” cats. Every step, every dance carries a powerful intention, drawing the audience deeper into the wonderous world of “Cats”.
Filled with gravity-defying dance and musical magic, Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “Cats” is a feline feast for the senses and will excite the imagination of all who sit back and enjoy its spectacle.
   Showtimes are 7:30 p.m. today and Thursday; 8 p.m. Friday; 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. Saturday: and 1:30 p.m. and 6 p.m. Sunday. Tickets range from $37 to $206 and can be purchased at www.ticketmaster.com.

Logan A. White is a Teens & 20s writer and a home-schooled high school graduate.

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