CATS, national tour, Capitol Theatre, closes Sunday; 355-2787. Running time: 2 1/2 hours (one intermission)
"Cats" are once again slinking across the stage at the Capitol Theatre — arching their backs and scratching and singing out T.S. Eliot's poetry set to the music of Andrew Lloyd Webber.
The story could not be more simple. The audience is told, in the beginning, that the Jellicle cats get together every year for a Jellicle Ball, at which time one of their number will be chosen to live again. Over the course of the next two hours the audience is introduced to a series of worthy and interesting cats, all of whom deserve at least one more good life.
This tour is under the direction of Richard Stafford, who was the dance supervisor in the first Broadway production. Stafford uses sets from the first Broadway tour of "Cats."
The main difference between this and other productions that have come to Utah is that this one features non-Equity actors. Some of the "cats" in this production got their start on cruise ships; several have a background in ballet; the program biography of one actor mentions music videos; and another soap operas.
So they are not without experience. And while the overall production may not be as crisp as some of the previous "Cats" at the Capitol, it is enjoyable nonetheless.
Several performances stand out. Dee Roscioli as Grizabella, the Glamour Cat, can raise the hairs on your neck with her voice. On opening night, she was the one who most moved the audience with her Act 2 rendition of "Memory." (Her bio says she was last seen nationally on tour with "Pokemon Live!")
As Mr. Mistoffelees, Ryan Jackson was another opening night standout. He is a small, black, leaping cat. He twirls and jumps most amazingly, seeming only rarely to need to touch the ground. Lucie Wood as Bombalurina and Robin Wilner as Demeter were also lovely in the Macavity number.
Rick Belzer did the lighting adaptation. Mark Norfolk did the sound design. The sound and lighting were generally good on opening night, but fine-tuning is needed in each case.
The choreography and costumes follow the original design. Both are beguiling. The dancers not only dance, they stretch languidly and give little catlike twitches. As for costumes, the furry manes and calico leotards are made even more amusing with whimsical touches, such as a tail tied around a waist and a cat with one black slipper and one orange slipper.
Eliot wrote quite lovingly of felines, and Webber does sweet melodies. The nicest thing about this "Cats" is that the people who are putting it on seem to appreciate, even honor, their material.