Monday, March 30, 2009

Cats Musical at Carolina Forest High School

Tonight I had the pleasure of attending one of the most outstanding live shows I've ever been lucky enough to hear about - The Carolina Forest High School's production of "Cats".

Cats is a musical composed by Andrew Lloyd Webber based on "Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats", by T. S. Eliot. It introduced the well known song, "Memory", recorded by Barbra Streisand. (her version unrelated to the actual show)

The story is about a tribe of cats that call themselves the Jellicle Cats, who meet in a junkyard once a year for the Jellicle Ball. The party each year ends as the head of the Jellicles, Old Deutoronomy, chooses one cat who can be reborn and find happiness.

Much of the musical is introducing various cats of notoriety, and suggestions of which cat is most worthy of the honor. A few of the characters were most noteworthy for me to mention:

The Rum Tum Tugger is a tom with leopard spots and a wild mane, who is arrogant and loves the women. Bustopher Jones is a huge fat cat with a fastidiious black coat, very rich and very proud and prissy. (and did I mention FAT)

The main character in the story is old Grizabella...a tired, worn out ex-glamour cat who is now old, tattered, and miserable. The other cats shun her, nobody will touch her, and she sings the very sad song, "Memory".

Memory, all alone in the moonlight
I can smile at the old days
I was beautiful then
I remember the time I knew what happiness was...
Let the memory live again

(the last verse)

Touch me - It's so easy to leave me
All alone with the memory
Of my days in the sun
If you touch me
You'll understand what happiness is
Look - A new day has begun

Another old cat, Asparagus, or Gus The Theatre Cat, was once a famous actor but now is old and his paws shake with palsy. He too sings of his youth and the lives that he lived.

Then the evil cat of the tribe, MaCavity, kidnaps Old Deuteronomy and a battle ensues to get him back. The cats drive MaCavity away, but it takes Mistoffelees the Magic Cat to bring Deutoronomy back, just in time for the "choosing" to be made.

Just as I was fussing to myself why Old Deutoronomy allowed the poor Grizabella to be so badly treated, he chooses HER to be reborn and find her happiness. He leads her to a stairway to the stars, and though she is fearful, she crosses to find her destiny and be happy again.

I've seen the Broadway tour of Cats twice, and this high school production was every bit as professional and talented as the singers and dancers on the Broadway show. Everyone in the audience was positively amazed at the beautiful voices and fabulous dancing these kids put forth.

If you can imagine the dancers from the show "Fame", coupled with a live orchestra (the Carolina Forest Band) that didn't miss a note, you can begin to understand just what a fantastic show this was. The stage was perfect, the costumes elaborate and true to the Broadway show. It was just a magical experience, and especially enjoyable to someone like me who loves cats. I think I smiled the entire first hour of the show, as one after another of the characters sashayed around the stage with tails held high. (well maybe not high...but very apparent!)

In the second set, they even had a group of "kittens" playing, as the mothers washed and pushed them around the stage. It was unbelievably cute.

If Myrtle Beach can produce high school talent like this, there's at least one school in South Carolina that goes beyond excellence. Carolina Forest is also one of five district schools that surpassed the national SAT average, with a score of 1024. We can stand with the best in the country claiming this wonderful school as our own.

The students and faculty of Carolina Forest High School must be proud enough to burst. For sure the sold out audience was thrilled and proud that Myrtle Beach has been blessed with these amazing and talented young people. What an awesome production!

(Photos courtesy of the Carolina Forest High School Website)

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