Last fall Beef & Boards Dinner Theatre staged “Les Misérables” and it was all about the incredible singing. Now the long-running Broadway show “Cats” is being performed on the small stage and it is all about the dancing and eye-popping acrobatics.
An extremely talented cast of a whopping 22 members fill the stage with tap dancing, ballet, jazz dancing, flips, leaps and even astonishing feats on large silk ribbons hanging from the ceiling. Never a dull moment, cats prance and dance all over the stage and throughout the theater.
While actors at this venue often walk though the audience for entrances and exits, numerous cats strut by tables during the course of the entire show. While your attention is
drawn one direction, don’t be surprised if you feel something hairy brush against your arm. Cats are all about you.
The fast-moving, high-energy show keeps the audience entranced with one unbelievable move after another. An interesting set is completely unnecessary as the eyes of the audience are forever trying to decide which cat demands their attention.
I saw the show on Broadway years ago and was not impressed. On seeing it a second time, I discovered my issue: I was looking for a plot and trying to understand the story. This is a mistake. “Cats” is a spectacle to be enjoyed for the flexible prancing bodies and the fascinating costumes. Don’t get caught up looking for hidden meaning in the storyline.
Here’s what you should know going in: the musical is based on a series of poems by T.S. Eliot for his godchildren that he did not intend to be printed and circulated. Collected and published in 1939 under the title “Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats,” the whimsical poems caught the attention of Andrew Lloyd Webber when he was a child.
At first I was trying too hard to understand what the cats were saying. Once I figured out that they were mostly speaking nonsense and one scene had little to do with the next, I sat back and thoroughly enjoyed the experience.
Anderson University graduate, Kristen Noonan, performs the aerial choreography on the silks (long ribbons that hang down from the ceiling). She effortlessly climbs the silks from the stage and strikes amazing poses.
Buddy Reeder, who attended Ball State University, performed in the Beef & Boards’ debut production of the show in 2004 and has returned to direct. He has participated in 11 productions and directed five of them.
“I handpicked this ridiculously talented company,” he said. “I made changes to the show and made it my own production.”
Eileen Faxas, who plays Grizabella, perfectly delivers the most popular song from the show, “Memory”. Her voice is simply mesmerizing. Another stand-out vocal performance is JS McLaughlin, who plays Old Deuteronomy. His deep voice is an ideal match to his character.
This production of “Cats” is a great deal of fun for audiences. Seeing the great acrobatics up close is a treat and watching humans try to embody the personality of a feline is amusing – even if you don’t particularly love the creatures.
If you go What: CATS Where: Beef and Boards Dinner Theatre, 9301 N. Michigan Road, Indianapolis When: Now through March 30 Cost: $37.50-$62.50 (includes Chef Odell Ward's dinner buffet) For more information: call 317-872-9664 or visit www.beefandboards.com