When the musical CATS is mentioned, usually my friends fall into two camps. The one camp roles their eyes and sigh heavily as they talk about “plot” and how it has none (I fall into this camp) and the other camp squeal in delight as they recall this show being the gateway to them learning about the enchantment and magic that is live theatre. I wish that I could have this reaction to the show, but my misplaced youthful excitement and nostalgia is for Andrew Lloyd Weber’s other 80’s masterpiece STARLIGHT EXPRESS. Yes, the one about the singing trains.
Yet, CATS is a show that I think really brings home the magic that is theatre for kids. It has plenty of spectacle with it fabulous junkyard, and the actors in their costumes and detailed makeup. It has music and dancing and there is always something to see. Each actor has their own character and since their character is being a cat, you could each each one for the entire show and see them playing with something they find, flicking their tail, or being bored, all while the scene plays around them. There is not a lot of plot, which is not bad for younger kids who have never seen a show before, so that instead on concentrating on the details of why the people on the stage are doing what they are doing, they can concentrate on the atmosphere, the movement, the music, and the fun of it.
I am a huge proponent of kids of all ages having access to the theatre. I think that on stage, backstage, or in the audience, kids can learn all sorts of things by being exposed to theatre. Yet the thing thatI hear the most about CATS, is that this is the show that introduced them to the magic of theatre. This is the show that they hold in their hearts as one of the first live performance experiences. I love this! I love that there is some magic experience to this show that can capture the imagination of even the youngest in the crowd and leave them as starry eyed adults years later.
So in a way, CATS can be the gateway show to other shows. As a kid who grew up under the D.A.R.E. program and learned to say “no” to all gateway drugs like the rest of my generation (cause that worked, right? The war on drugs is done?) I am happy to say “yes” to this show. While it might not be the top of my list, I will never say no to a chance to have a kid experience that magic.
Which camp do you fall into? Was CATS, what was your first theatre experience? If not, what was?
If you want a chance to see and compare for yourself check out CATS from San Diego Musical Theatre through April 6th at the North Park Theatre. Go to www.sdmt.org for more information on tickets and showtimes.