Who: El Dorado High School drama students
Where: Carl Borelli Community Amphitheater, 561 Canal St., Placerville
When: May 2 to 4, 9 to 11 and 16 to 18 at 8 p.m. Gates open at 6:30 p.m.
Cost: Tickets are $15 for general admission, $12 for students and seniors. Purchase them at the door, at The Bookery, 326 Main St., Placerville, or online at studio81.org.Information: studio81.org
In May, the second longest running musical on Broadway comes to El Dorado High School. “Cats,”composed by Andrew Lloyd Webber and adapted from T.S. Eliot’s book “Old Possum Book of Practical Cats,” is about a tribe of cats who gather together once a year at a special ball to choose which of the tribe will go to Heaviside Layer and be reborn. The story is told entirely through music and the antics of the cats.
Drama teacher Paul Tomei directs this huge production and Lorna Perpall is the vocal director.
“These kids are a total package,” said Perpall of the 46-plus students in the play.” We have some knock out voices and some really great men’s voices. They can dance and sing.”
Perpall said she was thrilled with the dancers and choreography in the show.
“Ryan has done such an amazing job with all of them — they look like they’ve been dancing for years.”
Ryan Blanning, 21, a California State University, Sacramento theater major, is the choreographer.
“I’m using all original choreography; not using stuff from other performances,” said Banning.
To keep the performers moving like the cats they portray, Blanning is keeping them grounded, not flying around the stage. He’s incorporating some hip-hop dance moves to keep them moving together like cats.
The play is a little shorter than the Broadway version as Blanning said parts of the second act were streamlined to keep the audience entertained and more enlightened about what is going on in the play.
“We also added some characters not in the Broadway version and took a few out,” he said.
One of the main characters is Old Deuteronomy, the tribe’s wise and revered leader, who will choose the cat to be reborn. He is played by Ethan Fox, a junior, who has never been in a play before, let alone a musical.
“I’ve been taking drama with Tomei and he convinced me to try out,” said Fox. “It was really intimidating because I’ve never sung in front of anyone before — not even my parents. It’s like giving away a part of yourself.”
“When he auditioned,” said Perpall, “we were all stunned. He has the most beautiful voice.”
Grizabella, the former glamour cat who is now old and unloved, is played by senior Christiana Rutz. Rutz sings the most famous song from the play, “Memory,” and she loves it. “I’ve been singing ‘Memory’ since I was 6 and this is my dream role.”
Rutz also performed in EDHS’ “42nd Street” and “Chicago” as well as with the Sacramento Theater Company.
Of her character in “Cats,” Rutz said, “All she wants is love and she is being bullied by the other cats. She’s reaching for someone to accept her, so desperation is what I’m going after to show her.”
Principle dancers, Camille Jones, who plays Demeter and Lindsay Thomas as Bombalurina, sing a sultry song about MacCavity, a villainous cat.
“It’s a sultry jazz song,” said Jones who is a junior,” and the dance we do is also … well, sultry.”
“It’s spicy,” said Thomas, senior who has also performed in “42nd street” and has been dancing since she was 7.
The two are all over the junkyard set throughout the play, constantly moving the way cats do and performing a series of challenging dances.
“Everyone is onstage and in character the whole time,” said Jones.”It’s a little hard to know your character when it’s not human, but it’s fun.”
Thomas said the cat cuddles, now that they are wearing costumes which have spike collars can be a bit dangerous.
Parents Terri Thomas and Cyndi Morrison have created the costumes for the huge cast.
“Each one takes hours and hours of hand painting,” said Thomas. “We borrowed 19 cat costumes for the chorus, but each of the principles needed a unique costume, so we bought some unitards and painted them while they were wearing them.”
Thomas said two of the cats are supposed to be twins.
“The kids came over to my house and we spent 5 1/2 hours painting them to match exactly. It took 4 hours to paint MacCavity — this is not for the faint of heart,” said Thomas.
Fur, tails and wigs were added to the unitards. There are three or four people crocheting the furry leg warmers the cats wear, said Thomas.
“This is an expensive production, but the community has shown incredible support,” said Thomas.
After “Cats,” Thomas will move on to do the costume design for Imagination Theater’s production of “Les Miserables,” another challenging production.
The cast is Jackson Harris, Admetus; Rachel Turner, Aldonza; Courtney Land, Allegro; Wyatt Martin, Alonzo; Mackenzie Harrell, Amethyst; Angela Hit, Andromeda; Cammy Linger, Bianca; Alex Alvarez, Bill Bailey; Lindsey Thomas, Bombalurina; Kevin Seger, Bustopher Jones; Michaela Gutierrez, Caloocalay; Hannah Drennan, Carbucketty; Elise Barnhill, Cassandra; Logan Tiley, Coricopat; Chrissy Mahoney, Daisy; Camille Jones, Demeter; Ethan Fox, Deuteronomy; Sam Ludden, Electra; Rebekah Monsma; Etcetera; Chelsea Chestnut, Evengelina; Olivia Tassinari, Exotica; Autumn Lulla, Gatsby; Aaron Navarro, Ghengis; Adam Ainsworth, Gilbert; Sami Jumper, Gracie Ann; Christiana Rutz, Grizabella; Raymond Thompson, Gus; Colleen Cooks, Harlequin; Hannah Van Vleet, Jellylorum; Natalie Sellers, Jemima; Emma Holm, Jennyandots; Meriah Stevens, Kelly Kat; Hannah Deitchman, Lizabeth; Andrew Standridge, Macavity; Josh Andrews, Mr. Mistoffelees; Logan Thomas, Mungojerrie; Ian Jonaksa, Munkustrap; Makenna Roy, Periwinkle; Caleb Morris, Plato; Lauryn Roy, Portia; Taylor Carlisle, Pouncer; Jonathan Rutz; Pouncival; Gwen Lacher, Rose; Evan Lucero, Rum Tum Tugger; Sarah Erickson, Rumpleteaser; Nicolas Nicodemus, Rumpus Cat; Mariah Alvarez, Sillabub; Thaden Salstrand, Skimbleshanks; Sasha Presley, Skittles; Ivory Linger, Tantomile; Whitney Standal, Trixie; Natalee Eggen, Victoria; and Samantha Chavez, Xyla.
The production is directed by Tomei; choreographer is Blanning; musical director is Perpall; costume designers are Thomas and Cyndi Morrison, set design by Diana Erickson, lighting by Ron Dumonchelle and sound is by Levi Cambridge. Jessica Serne is the director’s assistant; Marty Sherin is the production manager and Liz Sherin is the backstage manager.
Make up and hair is by Meghan Watkins, Nichole Leininger, Amanda Moore, Madison Calderon, Charlie Schroeder, MacKenzie Chopp, Tamara Nobles, Nyla Wilson and Hannah Magnuson.
The stage crew is Amanda Rickon, Sydney Gruber, Kellie Floyd, Allie Linville, Giavanna Duke, Amelia Samaniego, Nickole Turner, Jennifer Soto, Jamie Clough, Jacquelyn Boals and Natalie Holmstedt. The lighting crew is Ben Butler and Justin Clare.
“Cats” runs for three weekends, May 2 to 4, 9 to 11, and 16 to 18 at 8 p.m. at the Carl Borelli Community Amphitheater, 561 Canal St. in Placerville. Gates open at 6:30 p.m.
Tickets are $15 for general admission, $12 for students and seniors and can be purchased at the door, at The Bookery, 326 Main St., Placerville, or online at studio81.org.