'Cats' is coming to town
Published: Thursday, January 7, 2010 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 6, 2010 at 12:10 p.m.
Meow. Put out a saucer of milk, because the cats are coming. Of course, these aren't real cats. Nor are they cats in the hip, jazzy sense of the word. They're something in between - actors dressed as cats in a traveling production of the legendary Broadway musical, "Cats," which will appear at the Phillips Center on Saturday and Sunday.
What: National touring production of Andrew Lloyd Webber's Tony Award-winning musical.
When: 7:30 p.m. Saturday, 1 and 5 p.m. Sunday
Where: Phillips Center for the Performing Arts, 315 Hull Road, Gainesville.
Few shows in Broadway history have been as successful or as ubiquitous as "Cats." The musical, composed by Andrew Lloyd Webber and based on T.S. Eliot's "Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats," opened in London in 1981, and then appeared on Broadway the next year. In all, it had a Broadway run of 7,485 performances over the course of 18 years - a record surpassed only by another Webber-scored classic, "The Phantom of the Opera."
Adam Steiner, who plays Rum Tum Tugger, says one reason for the play's longevity is that it was the first of its kind.
"It was kind of the beginning of the mega-musical," he says. "It was the first 'Wicked,' the first 'Phantom of the Opera.' It was the first show that really stepped further than just being a love story with a tap-dance number. The costumes and the set and the way that people truly were able to walk into the theater and walk into a different reality, I think is really what has made this show successful."
Rum Tum Tugger is a ladies' tom, always flirting and making suggestive comments. In the original British version of "Cats," the character was modeled after Mick Jagger. However, Steiner says he puts his own twist on it.
"In the UK, they often refer to him as the Mick Jagger cat, and in the States, it has kind of slowly become more of an Elvis look on the character," he says. "I like to think of a mix of Mick Jagger and Elvis with Gene Simmons' tongue - that's kind of how I play the character. He's kind of got the mannerisms of Mick Jagger with the voice of Elvis and the tongue of Gene Simmons."
Steiner, who has been with the production for almost a year, says that he was not very familiar with the musical when he joined. However, he says that after joining the cast, the enthusiasm and work ethic were contagious.
"Once I joined, I saw within the cast and within the company that it was kind of give all or don't give anything," he says. "I saw how much everybody gave and how much everybody did step into all the ideas that have been with this show for 27 years, and I instantly just kind of let go. I really felt comfortable just going for it."
And, although he has played the same character night after night, all over the world, for 11 months and counting, Steiner says there are still goals he wants to reach and things he wants to learn about Rum Tum Tugger.
"Every day, I learn more and more about my character and its relationship to the other characters on stage," he says. "I think I could spend five more years trying to discover that."
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