It is not often that I miss an opening in Aurora’s Paramount Theatre, one of my favorites, but I always make sure that I do get out and see their productions. Yesterday, I attended a matinee of “Cats” with a near full house of appreciative theater lovers. “Cats” may be an overdone show of late with many regional and Community theaters taking on this Andrew Lloyd Webber saga based on “Old Possums Book of Practical Cats” by T.S. Eliot. This play is a choreographers’ dream- an opportunity to incorporate tap, ballet, modern, jazz and any other step as well as tumbling and acrobatics. Shawn Stengel’s creative juices truly were flowing on this production ad we were witness to some trapeze-like acrobatics and extraordinary “bungee” dancing.
The highly energetic cast is all over the stage, tumbling, dancing and introducing us to the different types of “Jellicle Cats” as they come out for their annual gathering to see which one will become reborn. There are many who do not like this play (if one can call it a play-I prefer musical entertainment) but I always find something positive in the stories based on and I was not let down by Paramount’s production and use of their larger stage. The set (Kevin Depinet) is different than previously done with tiers of pipes and cats taking to new heights. The junkyard feeling was not as usual and I did hear some murmurs of where is the tire? from the people sitting near me.
After the overture, as the “Cats” arrive on the stage and we hear about the night we are about to watch, Mistoffelees (Terrance Martin) and Victoria(Lizzie MacKenzie Pontarelli) invite us to “the Ball” and it never stops from there-two plus hours of amazing song and dance by a large, energetic and might I add, very talented cast of players. This is an ensemble piece if ever one was created. Each performer has their moment to shine as their character and some twice. I am sure you know the story, but there is one cat who no-one wants any part of , Grizaabella ( played to perfection by Lauren Villegas) who as it turns out is the chosen for rebirth. Her big song “”Memory” is powerful and ms Villegas is up to the task, Other stand outs in this cast, George Keating, Andy Planck (as Old Dueteronomy), Holly Stander, Sawyer Smith , Jonny Stein, Laura Savage and Olivia Renteria Each and every player is an important part of this solid production.
After attending the show, I checked on the Jeff Award status to see if this show had been recommended it had not been, which truly was a surprise as I found there to be several items in this production that were worthy of a possible nomination. Oh well, not my job! “Cats” will continue at The Paramount Theatre through October 12th with performances as follows:
Thursdays 7 p.m.
Fridays 8 p.m.
Saturdays at 3 and 8 p.m.
Sundays 1 and 5:30 p.m.
Tickets range from $41-$54 and are available at the box office, by phone at 630-896-6666 or online at www.paramountaurora.com
The theater is located in Downtown Aurora at 23 E. Galena. There are lots of dining spots in the area and valet parking is available. There is also a public garage, one block south on Downer Place- $3.oo easy in and out.
To see what others are saying, visit www.theatreinchicago.com, go to Review Round-up and click at “Cats”.