March 29, 2014 - Matinee and Evening
North Park Theatre -- San Diego, CA
By Dennis C. Callin (Rumblepurr)
Rum Tum Tugger
Jeffrey Scott Parsons
Names in RED are members of Actor's Equity Association.
US REGIONAL -- San Diego, CA
NORTH PARK THEATRE - March 29, 2015 -- Matinee and Evening
Although the name of the venue makes one think of a rather interesting place, the North Park Theatre is situated in a quaint town setting of shops, and eating places. Parking is tough -- 2 hour limit -- but there is a parking garage across the street for a low daily rate. The box office is on the 29th Street behind a very lively bar and Starbucks. This is also a queuing hall for four unisex bathrooms. Entry to the theatre is via four doors. This venue is an old stage turned movie theatre turned stage...
The Playbill had good headshots of the performers -- mostly non-equity. All "normal" parts (including the Dark Twins) were used - with a twist of having POUNCIVAL played by a young lady (Danielle Airey) - different, but it worked out nicely.
I am not going to go into any real detail on the scenes. However, I was impressed by the quality of the performers. Interaction was quite intense, especially along the front row where I had ample opportunities. Bomba had post right in front of me - a stand-off question of this interaction being either a lap-dance or a stare down. The aisles and back rows also got a lot of action. P&P is still cut from this show, but only minor points were cut of the rest of the show. A 16-piece orchestra really made a difference to the quality of the music. The pace of the show was rushed, however, and did not allow the performers to react to applause or laughter or the audience. After all, is this show not geared for audience participation to a certain extent?
First, let me say that ALL of the performers gave 125% to the show - especially when they knew they had fan groups in the audience. Any mention I make in this section comes from special recognition. Aurore Joly gets top spot because she was definitely noticed. As a male, I definitely appreciate female physique, and as a writer, I especially like Bomba in a certain character. Ms. Joly fit my Bomba credentials completely. I did not expect an in-your-face view of her during the Naming, but this is what she would do in my storyline. Ms. Joly also has a special "tail-flick" that a cat uses to express irritation or anger. Thank you, Ms. Joly. Even though I did not get seconds during the evening show, that matinee gift was close to fulfilling a fantasy... My second lady character that gets a nod is Alexis DeDonato as Demeter. A couple of times, she came very close to losing everything -- so very Deme-like. I was in a bad angle to see if she portrayed the Gillian instructions on how Deme reacts to everything - especially during Macavity. That and the rushed tempo may have prevented that love-him-hate-him move that starts with a belly-rub that is thrown away in disgust. Still, she gave me my 'Deme-fix' for the night.
Cassandra.... The more I see of this character, the more I like her. Talking with my seat-mate during intermission, we both agreed that Liz Daniels made an excellent Cassie. Her form is graceful and svelte, and she had characteristics that are beautiful -- especially around the face and eyes. And here is a first for me - I truly noticed the Dark Twins. Tantie, played by Deborah Fauerbach, is beautiful brunette in this show, and I may have to rewrite some Tantomile context to fit her. Her twin/mate Cori (Eric Taylor) made the beginning of act two wonderful. Somehow, we got permission to take stage shots, but it was not supposed to involve the cats. The Twins still got 'shot' a few times, and it was Ms. Fauerbach hissing while Mr. Taylor hovered protectively near her. Cody Walker as Munkustrap handled a part I have never seen before -- being Victoria's lover in the Courtship Dance. My seat-mate contends that he was chosen due to his strength. Take the opening lift that Munk does with Vickie in "Jellicle Songs" and go to "Dancin' With the Stars" level, and there you are with Munk holding Vickie one-handed up in the air above his head. Awesome stuff there. And Pounce? Danielle Airey did a wonderful job of making us look past the "girl playing a boy's part". I liked it because we still have not added Electra and Etcetera to the kitten squad, and a Pouncette was a nice touch.
Somewhere during the performances, I felt the magic again. I overheard someone talking about the "No Plot or Story" complaint. Webber and Nunn brought in Grizabella to give the musical a thread to tie some of the action, but I had a thought a while back. Usually, a story requires someone to ask a question that eventually gets answered -- even if it is only partial. Munkus asks the audience (and one poor gentleman in the front row) "What's a Jellicle Cat?" In "Ad-Dressing a Cat", Old Dee answers that we humans are very much like a cat and vice-versa. Do you think that Mem'rey is the only song that is connected to Griz? Demeter's retort that begins "She haunted many a low resort" is a partial poem that TS Eliot wrote but never published, and it was about Grizabella. His second wife, Valerie, discovered the poem and gave it to Webber and Nunn for the character. A bit of trivia that came to me because of the discussion a couple of seats back... As to the magic? By allowing myself to bring down my mental shields and suspending my logical and analytical centers, I was quite able to enjoy that sheer spectacle of the dancing and the songs - the same type of magic that occurred in "Growltiger's Last Stand". We get a dreamscape tour of Gus' memory of his adventures, and this is reinforced by seeing the Tribe put together a train out of old pieces of junk. The whole musical is laced with magic - right down to Misto's magical fingers... And I was front-row center in it...
Perhaps, this return to the show after a year or two will eventually do the trick. The magic was there where the orchestra played. Positioned under the orchestr pit tongue, their notes vibrated through the thick wood. I spread my fingers and pressed my palms to the wood, and I could feel the music along with the notes in the air... My seat-mate asked if I was feeling okay, and I told her what was haappening... Magic... BTW, Misto (excellently performed by Dylan Hoffinger) got in a perfect 24 Conjurinig Turns in the matinee and an extra two more in the evening perfromance.
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