Published on April 22nd, 2014 | by Reporters Desk0
By John Farrell, Curtain Call Writer
Cats is a Broadway staple.
More than 30 years after it opened in London, in 1981, and on the Great White Way, in 1982, millions have seen it and heard it songs, — particularly the standard Memories.
In most performances it is huge in style and in substance. It can fill the biggest theaters. So, why doesn’t it?
It’s still big in the production that opened recently at the La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts, but with a bit of a difference: The La Mirada stage is, simply, not as big as others. And, that makes a difference.
Because the stage isn’t quite as big as that at the Pantages, for instance, and because it isn’t anywhere as deep as that at the Carpenter Center in Long Beach (where Musical Theatre West did their production a year and more ago) Cats is forced to be more intimate, more in your face.
From the beginning, when the cast came on through the audience, to the end, when they came into the audience again this was a production that involved the audience and took the stage right up to the orchestra pit (where one cat nearly tumbled, intentionally, into the audience).
For the opening night, the audience was the additional fillip. Many in the large cast, including more than a dozen dancers, were locals who had fans in the front rows.
The production may have been a tad smaller than others, but it is clever and compelling, with a great scenic design by Peter Barbieri Jr. and great lighting design by Jean-Yves Tessier, with direction and choreography by Dana Solimando.
Onstage are 22 mostly lithe young performers, — the exception is Old Deuteronomy: Clent Bowers — who dance with compelling athleticism and sing with voices that are clear and sharp (if miced).
The story, of the annual Jellicle Cat ball, based on Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats by T.S. Elliot is more a framework for great performances than a compelling story of its own. But, who cares? Mungojerrie (Steven Agdeppa) and Rumpleteazer (Hannah Jean Simmons) have a great number in the first act, and Dane Wagner as Mefistofeles is a delight in his second act performance. There are many others, all charming and up close and personal.
John Glaudini leads from the pit with a large orchestra and a fine ear for his singers. This Cats is charming, effective and a great chance to see the musical in a more user-friendly version. There were lots of children in the audience and they loved it.
Tickets are $20 to $70. Performances are Wednesdays and Thursdays at 7:30 p.m., Fridays at 8 p.m., Saturdays at 2 and 8 p.m., Sundays at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. through May 11.