Star-Bulletin Features

Wednesday, October 7, 1998

By George F. Lee, Star-Bulletin
Michele Tibbitts pleases the crowd with her
portrayal of the mischievous Rumpleteazer.

Fantastic felines enchant

By John Berger
Special to the Star-Bulletin


SHALL we let the cat out of the bag? Call this one purrfect? The cat's meow? How about, "Missing this show would be a cat-tastrophe?" No, let's cut the cliches. "CATS" is great fun

The popular Andrew Lloyd Webber musical is back in Honolulu with all the familiar beloved magic intact. The comic numbers crackle and snap, poignant moments tug at the heartstrings. The minimal plot still suffices to string together a delightful collection of memorable Webber songs and the adventures of T.S. Eliot's old practical cats.

The premise is simple. The Jellicle cats meet once each year. Old Deuteronomy selects one cat to be reborn in the Heaviside Layer. It's obvious by intermission which cat is the likely candidate for rebirth, but that doesn't detract from the wondrous spectacle.

Audience favorites last night were simply the brightest stars in a galaxy of talent:

Bullet Athletic Brian Barry is an instant hit as the dynamic, diminutive, magical Mr Mistoffelees. The crowd began applauding midway through his big number. What an incredible performance!

Bullet Andy Karl dominates much of the show as the irrepressible scene stealing ladies' cat known as The Rum Tum Tugger. Karl does a fabulous job with a marvelous character.

Bullet Jeff Legace and Michele Tibbitts are a delightful duo as mischievous and acrobatic Mungojerrie and Rumpleteazer.

Bullet Craig Ricks (Growltiger) and Jeanne Montano (Griddlebone) make a first-rate comic team in the story of "Growltiger's Last Stand." Ricks also distinguishes himself as the aged theatre cat, Asparagus, who recalls his days of glory to sympathetic Jellylorum (also played by Montano).

Bullet Jon Paul Christensen lifts the spirits as the sprightly railroad cat, Skimbleshanks.

Bullet Jennifer Paige Chambers speaks barely a word but received tumultuous applause last night as the graceful and seductive Cassandra. Chambers' feline presence generates sensual energy.

Bullet Linda Balgord stops the show twice as the tattered and bedraggled Grizabella. It isn't clear why Grizabella is ostracized by the others, but "Memory" is her showcase number and Balgord makes it memorable . She delivers it as a statement of challenge and defiance; Grizabella appears to grow in strength with each verse.

"Memory," long a pop c standard; is shared with a second cat. Christie McCall (Sillabub) acquits herself beautifully.

There's more. Kip Driver is first among equals as the big tom cat, Munkustrap. Alcie C. DeChant is a comic favorite as Jennyanydots. Celina Carvajal (Demeter) and Parisa Ross (Bombalurina) heat things warning of "Macavity." Craig A. Benham adds gravity and mystery as Old Deuteronomy.

The characterizations are dead on throughout. A squad of tap dancing cockroaches, the battle between Growltiger and the pirates, the fight between Munkustrap and Macavity, and the cats' construction of Skimbleshank's locomotive from junkyard scraps are other visual highlights.

The vocals were a bit soft at times last night but production values otherwise were close to excellent. Stephen Bay appeared as Plato/Macavity; no one would have recognized him as an understudy.

John Berger has covered the local entertainment scene since 1972.


Bullet When: 8 p.m. daily through Saturday, 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, and 7 p.m. Sunday
Bullet Where: Blaisdell Concert Hall
Bullet Tickets: $33.50-$69.50. Discounts available for groups of 20 or more, call 732-7733.
Bullet Call: 545-4000

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