I can pinpoint the first time in my life that I fully accepted death. I was 15 years old, watching Broadway Across Canada’s Wicked in the Queen Elizabeth Theatre. As Elphaba belted out the final notes of “Defying Gravity,” my heart felt so full that I remember thinking to my teenage self: I could die right here in this chair and feel completely at peace.
That’s an extremely dark and dramatic way of saying that I’m a musical person. I will blast Broadway original cast soundtracks on my way to work. I will spend hundreds of dollars to sit in the front row and see the sweat pouring from the actor’s faces. I did go to the movie theatre to see notably not-teenaged Ben Platt play a teenager in the classically problematic Dear Evan Hansen, and I loved every second of it.
I wanted to make that clear before I say: CATS isn’t for me. I love musicals, but in general, this one just isn’t my jam. Even pre-2020 flop movie musical I knew that. But a local theatre group is remedying two major problems the original production has:
Original Problem #1: It is too long.
I think any production being over 120 minutes is one of the worst pop culture trends of the 2020s. (The Avatar sequel is like 8 hours long, I’m pretty sure.) One exception I generally make to this is musicals—surely, there’s no limit to how long I can watch insanely talented folks sing and dance, right? Wrong. One can only observe feline-dressed individuals introducing themselves over and over again for so long.
The version of CATS hitting the PAL Studio Theatre in Coal Harbour on July 29 comes in at a hot one hour. That’s exactly the amount of cat intros I want. No need for an intermission, even. Hit the litterbox beforehand and you’re good to go.
Original Problem #2: There are not enough children in it.
Les Mis, The Lion King, Matilda—I love them because they’re great, but I love them more because theatre kids are captivating. They make me cry. There’s no kids in the original CATS.
This new local, one-hour version has a cast of only children. It’s put on by the Children’s Theatre of Richmond (again, the show is in Coal Harbour, suburb-phobes) and all of the actors are under 18.
Andrew Lloyd Webber could take a note or two from this production. According to the folks at Children’s Theatre of Richmond, their version (officially called CATS Young Actors Edition) still preserves all the meaning (?) and magic of the original, including the cats emerging from the audience in the intro. And you’ve got to imagine they can fit in some pretty small spaces.
Just look at these photos.
Cats Young Actors Edition cast. Photo by Emily Cooper.
Cats Young Actors Edition cast member Daniella Lambert. Photo by Emily Cooper.
Cats Young Actors Edition cast member Alex Gonsalves. Photo by Emily Cooper.
Cats Young Actors Edition cast member Matthew Mintsis. Photo by Emily Cooper.
Cats Young Actors Edition cast member Sebastian Bellamy. Photo by Emily Cooper.
CATS Young Actors Edition
Presented by Children’s Theatre of Richmond
Dates: July 29 - August 7, 2022 (Nightly 7:00 pm, Saturday and Sunday matinees 2:00 pm, no shows Monday and Tuesday)
Venue: PAL Studio Theatre, 8th floor of 581 Cardero Street
Tickets: $20.50 - $27.50 + service fee (get them here)
More info: ctora.ca