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Friday, November 6, 1998
Houston, Texas
Volume 64, Issue 54

Manson's Freak Show

Make Way for the Waterboy and a Belly Flop

About the Cougar

Lloyd Webber musical classic rocks Jones Hall

By Emily Gillispie
Daily Cougar Staff 

They purr, they hiss and sometimes even spit. Cats are said to have nine lives, and for the musical Cats, boy, it sure is a reality.

Yes, Cats is back. The loveable, warm and fuzzy musical (pardon the pun) that will have the audience cheering for more, returns to Jones Hall through Nov. 8.

Musical genius Andrew Lloyd Webber is at it again as he brings his Tony Award-winning production to Houston for the MasterCard Broadway series. Not only is Cats the longest-running musical in Broadway history, it is also one of the most unique. Cats truly has achieved cult status ever since its kittenish conception in the New London Theatre.

Based on, and almost entirely identical to, the writings of T.S. Eliot in his book Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats, the musical guides the audience through the lives of the cats Demeter, Rum Tum Tugger, Mistoffelees, Old Deuteronomy, Growltiger and others as they go to the Jellicle Ball. 

Old Deuteronomy (Craig A. Benham, center) surrounded by his tribe of felines in the hit musical Cats playing through Nov. 8 at Jones Hall.

Some cats are funnier and more talented than others. Rum Tum Tugger, played by Andy Karl, is the coolest cat of them all. He comes on stage with his pelvis thrusting and mane flailing, a presence no one will easily forget.

Rum Tum Tugger, as Karl described at an interview at Channel 8 before the show, "pretends to be the King (Elvis). (He's) the Elvis cat. But he definitely respects his clan and respects his tribe of cats." 

Karl does a remarkable job of impersonating "The King" through the shrewd voice of a mangy alley cat. Before you leave the theatre, you may actually believe Elvis was indeed reincarnated in Rum Tum Tugger.

Magical Mr. Mistoffelees, played by the ever-so-limber Brian Barry, almost steals the show with his clever tricks and elegant poises. Mistoffelees is the original conjuring cat who performs many tricks, such as pulling seven kittens out of a hat. Barry is as graceful as a swan, executing twists and twirls that would make a ballerina jealous. The costume is also brilliant, with Austrian crystal beads shimmering in the stage lights.

Other notable mentions are Growltiger, played by Craig Ricks, and Griddlebone, played by Jeanne Montano. Growltiger's simply funny. His transformation between young and old is enticing to watch, especially when the ancient Egyptian cats enter the scene.

Montano is dainty and quick on her paws. But more than that, she has a superb operatic voice. Her full-bodied sound reaches every corner of the theater not by shattering eardrums, but by soothing souls.

Celina Carvajal, who describes her character Demeter as frantic, schizophrenic and scared, entertains the crowd with fellow cat Bombalurina, played by Parisa Ross. Their duet about Macavity, the cat who is never there at the scene of the crime, is lively and a joy to watch.

Even though Cats is more than two hours long, you should stay for the ending. Grizabella, played by Jodie Langel, rocks the house with her pounding voice in "Memory," Grizabella's remembrance of what she was like when she was a young cat.

Cats is a musical for the whole family, cat lovers and all. But don't be swayed from seeing the show just because you happen to hate those furry little guys.

Yes, even the musical can recognize the imperfections of the feline, and those of you who hate them will have your time to laugh. Cats is a remarkable musical and a theatrical experience that everyone should see at least once.

Reach Gillispie at

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