Could it be better than "Cats"?
When Andrew Lloyd Webber took the poems of T.S. Eliot and set them to music, it turned into a Broadway musical phenomenon that ran from 1982 to 2000. People everywhere tried belting out the signature song, "Memory," and couldn't get rid of the earworm "Jellicle Songs for Jellicle Cats," which might or might not have made sense.
A revival is now touring the country with shows Tuesday through May 12 in Austin.
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Does it translate to today's musical audience that can't wait to see "Hamilton," which starts at the end of the month?
One of the biggest changes in this version of "Cats" is in the signature character of Grizabella, who had been characterized as an aging, lonely cat that the other cats shunned because "she haunted many a low resort." She's typically been played by an older actress.
In this new production, Grizabella is given a fresh look and is played by 25-year-old Keri René Fuller.
"I remember getting the call from my agent telling me I got the audition," Fuller says. "There is no way they are going to hire a 25-year-old to play Grizabella."
She went anyway because she figured it would be fun.
This challenge of who Grizabella is has caused her to think about the character a little bit differently. ""The only reason we think of Grizabella as an older cat is because she's been cast that way," Fuller says.
Instead she thinks of common experiences she has had, such as losing touch with a group of friends after heading off to college, or being pushed away from a group of friends.
"All of us know what it's like to not belong, to not fit in, to be pushed away from a group of friends you don't know," she says.
Fuller thinks of this story as being, at its root, a tale of redemption. It's a story of leadership through empathy, of acceptance and always learning, she says.
And it remains relevant. "In today's political climate and the tensions from that root, all of us can learn a lesson in empathy," she says.
To people who saw "Cats" 30 years ago, the show will feel familiar, Fuller says. It's still the same production, but it has a more refreshed take on choreography and acting intentions, she says.
Fuller never saw "Cats" in the theater growing up in Oklahoma, but she did wear out the VHS tape of a production. She studied musical theater at Baldwin Wallace University in Ohio before moving to New York City in 2015 to try to make a career of it.
She immediately started auditioning when she arrived there and scored a role in the cast and as Jenna's understudy in "Waitress" before she was cast as Grizabella.
She didn't grow up with cats, and instead had a dog, but she's now studied them.
"I will analyze how they move and have a whole new appreciation of them and how stealthy they are," she says. "They have sensory points on every part of their body, and their focus is very interesting."
"I'm just very grateful. This is a role I never thought I would play or doing it at this point in my life."
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