Broadway in Cape

Monday, December 8, 2003

Just less than a week after the Show Me Center announced it was booking the national touring company of "Cats" for a performance next April 23, the 300 floor seats were sold out. Ticket sales continue to be brisk.

In short, the Cape Girardeau area is crazy for "Cats," but that doesn't make local residents unusual. The musical has sold more than 8.25 million tickets since it opened in London on May 11, 1981. In 1997, after 3,358 performances, it became the longest-running musical in Broadway history, finally completing its 18-year run on Sept. 10, 2000. A show doesn't do that well without having some compelling performances that keep people coming back and telling their friends.

What is unusual is that a city the size of Cape Girardeau would get the national touring company. Brad Gentry, the Show Me Center's marketing director, said this is the only touring group in the nation, with the same organization behind it that produced the Broadway show.

"There's only one you can see if you want to see it," Gentry said.

People clearly do want to see the heavily made up and costumed actors and actresses who sing and dance, playing a diverse array of felines.

There's the lazy Jennyanydots, the outcast Grizabella, the prankster Rum Tum Tugger, the gluttonous Bustopher Jones, the villainous Macavity, the great and wise leader, Old Deuteronomy and many others.

All of the dialogue is sung. "Cats" won seven Tony Awards in 1983, including best musical, best book of a musical, best lighting and best costumes.

Andrew Lloyd Webber wrote the songs based on "Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats" by T.S. Eliot. More than 150 artists have recorded "Memory," the musical's most famous song, which begins: "Midnight ... not a sound from the pavement ... Has the moon lost her memory? ... She is smiling alone ... ."

The musical ends with Old Deuteronomy deciding what cat will be reborn into a new life.

If "Cats" does well in Cape Girardeau, which seems a lock given early sales, area residents could get a taste of more Broadway and fine arts fare. Gentry said the Show Me Center is considering a series of three or four similar concerts in the 2004-05 season.

All the more reason to fill all 3,100 seats for the April 23 performance.

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