Based on: T. S. Eliot – “Old Possums Book of Practical Cats”
Director and Musical Directory: Shawn Stengel
Choreography: Harrison McEldowney
Scenic Design: Kevin Depinet
Lighting Design: Jesse Klug
Costume Design Theresa Ham
Magical Dancing Cats
There are dog people, and cat people, but CATS is for dance people! This show has as much dance, if not more than song, and some of the most creative and exciting performances you will see anywhere. They include: modern, jazz, ballet, terrific athletic prowess, aerials on ropes, etc. and yes….even tap. The choreography by internationally acclaimed Harrison McEldowney surely should be recognized with awards this season, if not the whole show.
After three seasons, Paramount hits a peak of excellence, which prompted the Joseph Jefferson Award Committee to expand its geographic reach. The current production of CATS will be the Paramount’s first to be judged in the Equity Jeff Awards/Large Tier theater category. As Artistic Director, Jim Corti is a primary force in Paramount’s fast climb to excellence.
For those new to CATS, what is it? It may may be light on plot, but it dazzles and entertains because of its richness in every other area. The songs give wonderful messages, with mood, atmosphere, and special effects, but those are not the only or most important keys in a successful musical.
The old saying, “You can often find a great singer, who dances a little; or a great dancer who sings a little, but seldom can you find both”. The renown Shawn Stengel directed, musically directed and conducted the orchestra as well as selecting a remarkable cast. He used discretion with a lot of tight and disciplined choreography, and cats are not running helter-skelter as in too many other CATS productions. So many outstanding singers had footwork to match the quality of their voices…just an amazing collection of top-notch vocal talent and clear diction. Many characters who only sang one solo song could easily carry the lead in other productions…they were that good. But then their backgrounds show some had already accomplished leading roles. Among others, Lauren Vilegas and Olivia Renteria brought the house down with the signature song, “Memory”.
While a few individual characters sported elaborate costumes that one expects in a CATS production, many blended unremarkable across the stage…not particularly catlike togs.. This decision perhaps suited the rigor of the dancing, and accommodated the many different dancing styles without jarring ones sensibilities. The flexibility, strength and power of the dance moves, especially by some of the men dazzle. The unique set with arches, wide dark tunnels and subtle flowing stripes of color could look bleak, but with the clever lighting by Jesse Klug, it could switch to bright gaiety as for the eventful ball scene.
Paramount starts its new season with an awesome magical show after three seasons., and the remainder of this years’s musicals (Mary Poppins, The Who’s Tommy and Les Miserables) looks just as ambitious. Suburbanites can certainly say they have access to great musical theater with reasonable ticket prices and easy parking.
CATS has a small story, but wonderful messages within many of its songs, and the creative brilliance of Paramount’s show makes it a must see. With CATS, all the superb singing and exciting dancing plays out the characteristics of different cats, which parallel people you probably know. And which cat do you most closely resemble? Find out with this breathtaking production at the Paramount Theatre only now through October 12, 2014.
Reviewed: September 13, 2014
8 East Galena Boulevard
Aurora, Illinois 60506
Performances: Sept. 13 through October 12, 2014
Wednesday 1:30 p.m. and 7 p.m., Thursday 7:00 p.m., Friday 8:00 p.m., Saturday 3 p.m. and 8 p.m. and Sunday 1:00 p.m. and 5:30 p.m.
Single Tickets $41-$54 Season Tickets as low as $27 per four shows.
To purchase go to www.ParamountAurora.com, call (630) 896-6666 or visit Paramount box office Mon-Sat. 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and 2 hours prior to evening performances. NOTE: CATS is rated G.