Now featuring updated design, direction and choreography for a new generation to enjoy, one of the biggest hits of theatrical history is making a stop in Austin May 7-12.
Composed by the iconic Andrew Lloyd Webber and based on T.S. Eliot’s best-selling Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats, the record-breaking musical is known in more than 30 countries and 15 languages. “Cats” returned to Broadway in 2016 for a multi-season North American tour. Originally opening in 1982 at Broadway’s Winter Garden Theatre, “Cats” ran for 18 years.
The story of “Cats” centers on a characterful group of cats (whimsically dubbed “Jellicles” by Eliot) and each cat’s individual quest to be selected as the “lucky one” who will ascend to the “Heaviside Layer.” (Another of Eliot’s masterfully quirky language twists, and essentially a euphemism for feline heaven.)
Ahead of the Austin performance, we spoke with Tion Gaston who plays Mistoffelees, a character who undergoes a complete transformation during the musical.
“Cats” is one of the biggest hits in theatrical history, how do you feel to be part of such a classic Broadway production?
I feel so honored to have been selected to be a part of this. Being a part of such an epic and memorable show makes me feel like I’m doing something right when it comes to my dancing and acting skills. It’s still unbelievable to have this opportunity and I will be forever blessed to be a part of this magical show.
Tell us a little more about your favorite part of your role/character and its challenges.
My favorite part of being the Magical Mr. Mistoffelees is that Mistoffelees and I (Tion Gaston) share a lot of similar qualities. Mistoffelees comes across as a shy, innocent character at first but as the show goes on you see him pop out of nowhere with a burst of light…literally! Through the show you see him build up courage by having the opportunity from many characters to take charge. I believe the same thing applies when it come to me as well. At first, I may come across as a quiet, shy boy, but once given the opportunity and trust I am able to break out of my shell and do some stellar things.
What is your favorite scene or song in “Cats?”
My favorite song to sing has to be “Skimbleshanks: The Railway Cat.” I love the way the words roll off your tongue and just overall the whole atmosphere of the song. My favorite scene in the show would have to be “Macavity: The Mystery Cat.” It’s such an empowering song with only the female cats on stage. I love it and the vibe of the song just gets you groovin’.
Can you talk about the additions to the musical and choreographic lineup?
The new choreography, done by Andy Blankenbuehler–choreographer of “Hamilton,” gives the show a modern twist. Andy’s movement contrasts the original movement and choreography done by the late Gillian Lynne. Her movement was nothing short of timeless and tantalizing. Gillian’s movement was more balletic and/or lyrical whereas Andy’s style is more hard hitting and/or more like hip hop.
The costumes are extraordinary. What will the audience notice in particular?
The details I love most about my costume would have to be the tatting on the chest of my costume. I love the way it looks with my beautifully styled wig. The most common thing recognized at the beginning of the show, which is always fun to see, is the different sets or green eyes hidden in the set!
Why should our readers come and see “Cats?”
If this is anyone’s first show, it’s a great introduction to theater. However, if you have seen the show before this is also a great time to come see a new, refreshed show with amazing lighting, costumes, and the amazing message of acceptance and family. Any person, no matter the age, will find that this show makes you feel something. There are dedicated actors and actresses on stage pouring our hearts out in movement, expression and dancing! This show will bring you joy and hopefully be one of the highlights of your theatre excursions this year.
Cover photo by Matthew Murphy