The Fifth Third Bank Broadway in Atlanta series is closing its 2018-19 season with some feline friends.
The series will stage “Cats,” the smash musical that won seven Tony Awards, including Best Musical, Aug. 6 through 11 at the Fox Theatre in Midtown as part of its North American tour.
“‘Cats’ stands out to me because it reaches so many different audiences and age groups and it’s timeless,” said Mariah Reives, who plays Cassandra. “You can see yourselves in these cats and get a message or learn something through the story of ‘Cats.’ It’s unbelievable. It’s unlike any show I’ve ever done.”
“Cats” is a sung-through musical composed by Andrew Lloyd Webber and based on T.S. Eliot’s 1939 poetry book, “Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats.” It debuted in London in 1981 and premiered on Broadway in New York the following year.
According to information posted to the Broadway in Atlanta website, “Cats” “tells the story of one magical night when an extraordinary tribe of cats gathers for its annual ball to rejoice and decide which cat will be reborn.”
It has seen tremendous success both in London and New York, as the sixth longest-running West End show and the fourth-longest-running Broadway show. “Cats” was the longest-running Broadway production until Lloyd Webber’s “Phantom of the Opera” surpassed it in 2006.
A “Cats” feature film based on the musical is set to be released in theatres in December.
“The movie is coming out and I just saw the trailer,” said Timothy Gulan, who plays Peter, Bustopher Jones, Gus and Rumpus Cat in the touring musical. “It’s super exciting, but as exciting as (the movie) is, (in the musical) there are cats in the audience. It’s the first major musical that took the environment of the audience and used it as part of the show. The first thing you see is there’s cats in the audience and you don’t know they’re there.
“The other thing that is super cool about it is because it’s like that, the show is different every single night because the character of the audience is different every night. You’ll see a different show every night. This is a really living, breathing thing. Everyone’s gestures impact everyone. The other thing is everything is from a cat’s perspective. The basketball is huge and the soccer ball is huge. We spent a lot of time studying cats.”
Both actors/dancers said the choreography in “Cats,” originally handled by Gillian Lynne from when it debuted, has been updated by Andy Blankenbuehler, the choreographer of ‘Hamilton.’
“If you think you know ‘Cats,’ this is a different ‘Cats,’” Gulan said. “The choreography with Andy Blankenbuehler has more ‘Dancing with the Stars’ kind of stuff, with percussive things or contemporary dance.”
Both actors/dancers have been with the tour since it started in January and have previously performed at the Fox, but the similarities end there.
Reives, a native of Sanford, North Carolina, who lives in New York while not on tour, is performing in her first Broadway show tour. She previously only had appeared on TV shows and in regional theater shows in New York prior to the tour. Her first performance at the Fox was a 2014 audition for the TV competition show “So You Can Think You Can Dance,” where she advanced to the second round before being eliminated.
Gulan, a Connecticut native who lives in that state and New York while not on tour, had his Fox debut was in 1993 with “Les Miserables.” “Cats” will be his fifth performance at the Fox. He has been in several other musicals on Broadway and on tour, including “The Lion King” and “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels.”
Both actors/dancers said they look forward to returning to the Fox, with each calling it a “beautiful” theater. And what are their other plans for their Atlanta tour stop?
“My best friend (Madi Nelson) lives in Atlanta, and she and her family are coming to the show,” Reives said, adding her aunt, Angela Moss, is also coming, and she plans to visit some museums while in town.
Said Gulan, “Having been to Atlanta a bunch of times, I always get excited about the soul food: barbecue, chicken and waffles. There’s lots to do; tons of hiking and mountains. It’s a super cool town with a lot of culture and history.”
He said there are at least two other good reasons to see “Cats.”
“If you have a kid, take the kid to see a musical. It’s completely family friendly,” Gulan said. “What’s really cool about it is because we’re cats and not people, it really opens up the kids’ imagination. They are completely transfixed. When you bring up a kid in creativity, they have a leg up on education, in communication. …
“Another thing that’s really great is the show is about inclusion and redemption. All the cats are different cats. Nobody’s pretending we are what we are not. We are acknowledging and celebrating our differences instead of using our differences as an excuse to fight. Every cat this time around is a flawed cat. If you’re not flawed, you don’t need redemption. That’s a really cool thing because you see all of us realize we are different.”
Tickets start at $35 (not including extra fees) and are available by visiting www.foxtheatre.org/cats, calling 1-855-285-8499, or going to the Fox box office (660 Peachtree St. NE in Atlanta). Group orders of 10 or more may be placed by calling 404-881-2000.