The Memory of Cats

Cats Jellicle Ball

The lights dim in the audience, and my excitement rises as the opening notes pierce the dark.

It’s New Years Eve, and my adolescent eyes widen as the stage begins to glow. On Christmas Day, the very last present I had opened was tickets for this show, the one I wanted to see more than anything.

Now I hold the program crumpled in my lap. The ticket? Deep inside the crease.

I hear voices, rising all around, and suddenly on the aisle, I see a dancer slinking forward with purpose.

A cat.

And she’s singing.
And she’s dancing.
And she’s acting.

And I’ve never seen anything like this before. I’m transfixed and engaged, leaning forward.

After the curtain, when the cast comes out to count down with the whole London audience, I’m celebrating all over. I’m only 11, but next year I’ll be 12 and who knows what that will bring?

First thing is first, buying the cast album on cassette tape, and memorizing every word, especially the words to “Macavity”. That’s my favorite.

 

Cats is returning to Broadway this year. Apparently the “Now and Forever” was more than a catch phrase with the London production running 21 years, original Broadway for 18,  and countless touring productions since the show first premiered in 1981. The show is a global phenomena, having been performed everywhere from Australia to South Korea to Bahrain.

Turns out I wasn’t the only audience member transfixed in their seat.

What about you?

Do you know the words to Memory?  

I did wear out my white SONY Walkman with the Cats soundtrack and replaced it with a shiny silver cd for my boom box.

The show was always close to my heart, and a dream for me, especially to play the role of Demeter, who sang my favorite song, “Macavity”.

When I moved to NYC , one of my first Broadway auditions was for Cats. While I did make it past the first cut, I went home after the second combination.  The Winter Garden  theatre shut its doors soon after, and the show closed in 2000.

Cats blew up in the regional market, and my chance came in 2003. I had been called for a replacement in 2002 at another theatre, but was already in contract somewhere else. It hurt my feline heart to turn it down, so when I booked the show a year later, I was thrilled.

And I was cast as Demeter.

I arrived the first day of rehearsal, and realized I was only one of six cast members who had never done the show before. Everyone else had either been in the Broadway cast or the Broadway National Tour.

This was a whole new level for me.

The cast could not have been more supportive and helpful. I was so nervous. I couldn’t believe these words I used to sing into my hairbrush were now coming out of my mouth in one of the best theatres in the country.

The 11 year old in me was transfixed and engaged. The 28 year old was dancing harder than I ever had. I was in performer heaven.

When my mother came to see me in the show, she said,
This is the first time everyone on stage was either at your level or higher.

I hadn’t realized that until she reflected that back. And wow…..what company. It brought out the best in me.

It took me back to London and that New Year’s Eve.

Maybe that’s why it worked.

 

This past week I took a dance class with the assistant choreographer of the new Broadway revival, and he taught a section of the 11 minute epic Act I closer, The Jellicle Ball. I honestly hadn’t done this section since performing in the show back in 2003.

Somehow my body remembered.

We danced to the original recording, the same one I played over and over in my Walkman.

And I couldn’t stop smiling.

The teacher came up to me after class and we had fun reminiscing and connecting over our experiences in the show.

While I was much younger when I danced this, I felt just as vibrant. My present 40 year old self attacked each phrase with precision and joy.

And as I entered the elevator to travel to the NYC street below, I felt I had both my 11 and 28 year old self by my side. And I knew they both played a part in forming my business and my mission to empower creatives.

Pretty good company.

 

Where did your expression originate?
What was that first moment of inspiration?

Did you bring your 11 year old with you into your adult life, or are they sitting in a dark theatre, wondering where you went?

Our creativity and craft will change and evolve with our experiences and age, but what brings us back to the page, the stage, and the canvas again and again?

It may be a Memory.

And it may be the key to moving forward.

“If you touch me you’ll understand what happiness is
And a new day will begin…”

So, what is yours?