Feline flair: 5 reasons to see ‘CATS’ at Schuster Center

Wright State University graduate Megan Arseneau is part of the 2021-22 national touring company of the Broadway show "CATS.'' The show runs Tuesday through Sunday at the Schuster. CONTRIBUTED
Caption
Wright State University graduate Megan Arseneau is part of the 2021-22 national touring company of the Broadway show "CATS.'' The show runs Tuesday through Sunday at the Schuster. CONTRIBUTED

The memory indeed lives again.

Andrew Lloyd Webber and T.S. Eliot’s landmark, seven-time Tony Award-winning musical “CATS” is in purr-fect shape at the Schuster Center as the season opener of Dayton Live’s 2021-2022 Premier Health Broadway in Dayton Series.

Yes, this story about a tribe of cats hoping to ascend to the Heavyside Layer for rebirth is still all about the dancing (a great pleasure thanks to Andy Blankenbuehler’s outstanding choreography modeled after Gillian Lynne’s iconic routines) as well as The Big Song. Nonetheless, there are many strong performances in this terrific national tour that keeps the material breezy and engaging under Trevor Nunn’s skillful staging, which provided the benchmark for musical theatre spectacle when “CATS” debuted in London 40 years ago.

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In addition to superb junkyard atmospherics bolstered by Natasha Katz’s dazzling lighting design and Mick Potter’s moody, mysterious sound design, here are five particular felines worth your attention.

JENNYANYDOTS: THE OLD GUMBIE CAT

After the enticing opening number (“Jellicle Songs for Jellicle Cats”), the audience is introduced to a series of cats in consideration for the journey above. The first contender is humorous Jennyanydots (a.k.a. the Old Gumbie Cat), gleefully portrayed by Michelle E. Carter. Tapping up a storm in bright orange fringe (original costumer John Napier’s designs remain first-rate), Carter’s radiance is an early tone-setting highlight.

Caption
Zach Bravo as Rum Tum Tugger in the national tour of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Tony Award-winning “Cats,” presented by the Premier Health Broadway in Dayton series at the Schuster Center in Dayton on Tuesday, Nov. 23.

Credit: CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

Zach Bravo as Rum Tum Tugger in the national tour of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Tony Award-winning “Cats,” presented by the Premier Health Broadway in Dayton series at the Schuster Center in Dayton on Tuesday, Nov. 23.
Caption
Zach Bravo as Rum Tum Tugger in the national tour of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Tony Award-winning “Cats,” presented by the Premier Health Broadway in Dayton series at the Schuster Center in Dayton on Tuesday, Nov. 23.

Credit: CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

Credit: CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

THE RUM TUM TUGGER

Zach Bravo attacks with flashy flair as the attention-seeking, seductive and strutting Rum Tum Tugger. Conveying his role with a delightful Adam Lambert-esque bravado, Bravo proves he’s a natural showman and there’s no use doing anything about it.

GUS THE THEATRE CAT

In one of the production’s most touching, poignant moments, Gus the Theatre Cat, elderly and coping with palsy, reflects on his glory days on the stage. John Anker Bow, unhurried and meaningful, charmingly captures Gus’ warm sentiments with gentle remembrance and a very magnetic demeanor. Bow also receives lovely support from Kayli Jamison, who introduces Gus’ story as Jellylorum.

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MISTER MISTOFFELEES

Decked out in an amazing technicolor jacket, Paul Giarratano displays exceptional balletic finesse as the wonderfully whimsical Mistoffelees, who comes to the aid of Old Deuteronomy (impressive tenor Indalecio De Jesús Valentín). Giarratano glides across the stage with graceful ease and an infectious exuberance befitting his sprightly role.

GRIZABELLA, THE GLAMOUR CAT

As the glamorous-turned-ostracized Grizabella, Tayler Harris has the plum assignment: to sing “Memory” with every fiber of her being. Thankfully, she embraces the giant task without one morsel of melodrama or histrionics. Harris’ remarkably beautiful rendition, firmly planted in the wistfulness of Grizabella’s past and her hope for a redemptive future, leaps forth with passionate power, giving credence to the joy that comes with second chances.

HOW TO GO

What: “CATS”

Where: Schuster Center, Second and Main Streets, Dayton

When: Through Nov. 28; 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, 1:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Friday, 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. Saturday, and 1 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. Sunday

Cost: $26-$89

Tickets: Call 937-228-3630 or visit daytonlive.org

FYI: Masks are required for patrons over the age of 6

Caption
Wright State University graduate Megan Arseneau is touring with "CATS." Here, she is pictured as the Gumbie Cat, one of six roles she is covering. The show opens at the Shuster in Dayton on Tuesday. CONTRIBUTED

Wright State University  graduate Megan Arseneau is touring with "CATS." Here, she is pictured as  the Gumbie Cat, one of six roles she is covering. The show opens at the Shuster in Dayton on Tuesday.  CONTRIBUTED
Caption
Wright State University graduate Megan Arseneau is touring with "CATS." Here, she is pictured as the Gumbie Cat, one of six roles she is covering. The show opens at the Shuster in Dayton on Tuesday. CONTRIBUTED

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