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Morning Sun
  • 'Cats' performance to hit stage

  • Andrew Lloyd  Webber’s hit musical “Cats” is a difficult show to cast because it requires performers who are top-notch dancers and singers.

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  • Andrew Lloyd  Webber’s hit musical “Cats” is a difficult show to cast because it requires performers who are top-notch dancers and singers.
    Fortunately, the Midwest Regional Ballet and the American Opera Studio of Kansas City succeed beautifully. Their collaborative production will be presented at 8 p.m. today and Saturday and 2:30 p.m. Sunday in Pittsburg Memorial Auditorium. Ticket information is available at 231-7827. Tickets are also available online or at the door.
    Based on “Old Possum’s Book of Practical  Cats” by T.S. Eliot, the plot, such as it is, tells of the  Jellicles, a cat tribe that lives in a garbage dump. This is the night of the Jellicle Ball, and one cat will be chosen to ascend to the Heaviside Layer to be reborn into a new life.
    The audience learns about some of the Jellicle cats through songs and dancing, from the Rum Tum Tugger, who’s always on the wrong side of every door, to MaCavity the Mystery Cat, an arch criminal, Asparagus the decrepit theater cat and Old Deuteronomy, the patriarch of the clan.
    And there’s Grizabella, a once beautiful cat who is now sad, lonely and shunned by the younger cats. She sings the heart-wrenching “Memory,” one of the best songs in the show. Christina Dominguez-Fracul is glorious in the role, both in her singing and acting.
    “Christina is one of my professional students and sings with the Kansas City Lyric,” said Dr. William Hall, founder and director of the American Opera Studio. “In fact, I’ve brought all professional students for this show, with the exception of one high school student.”
    He and Kaye Lewis, director of the Midwest Regional Ballet, said that it’s a challenge to rehearse together when the vocalists live in the Kansas City area and the dancers are in southeast Kansas and southwest Missouri.
    “Our rehearsal schedule has been intense,” said Hall, who plays Old Deuteronomy. “We’ve been rehearsing every Sunday for months.”
    Lewis, as usual, has worked on costumes, along with Gretchen Long and the  “Cats” cast.
    “I hand-painted all the cat costumes,” Lewis said. “The dancers had to stand in them while I did it.”
    The make-up, designed by Brandi and Dock Graber, is something new and different.
    “Typically stage make-up is pancake based, but this is straight greasepaint,” Hall said. “It’s a cool technique I haven’t used before.”
    Also new is the lyra, an aerial hoop that the dancers are using.
    “It’s really fun learning to do the lyra,” said Lyndsey Bowen, Joplin, who dances the role of Victoria. “We’re expanding into new apparatuses.”
    The set includes an actual Volkswagen.
    “One of my dancer’s dads had the Volkswagen in his backyard and he asked if I wanted him to clean it up and bring it,” Lewis said. “He  worked with it and got the lights to light up.”
    Page 2 of 2 - Numerous area students dance in the production, including Jake Forsythe, Pittsburg, who is Rum Tum Tugger.
    “He’s the sexy cat,” said Forsythe, a musical theater major who attended Pittsburg State University and is now a student at Missouri Southern State University.
    Margaret Kellenberger, Carthage, Mo., dances the role of Jemima.
    “My favorite part is the costumes and getting to work with the vocalists,” she said.
    Brock Goben, Columbus, who sings and dances as Muunkustrap, the narrator cat, said he’s really enjoying the production.
    “My favorite thing is getting our friends from Kansas City here and putting on a big show together,” he said.
    The feeling is mutual.
    “We always enjoy coming to Pittsburg, and we love working with Kaye Lewis and her dancers,” Hall said.
    Dancers are: Lyndsey Bowen as Victoria; Meredith  MacQueeney as Jennyanydots; Jenna Garretson as Mr. Mistofflees the magician cat; Marriah Darnell as Bombalurina; Erin Williams as Cassandra; Sage Brown as Mungojerrie; Charlotte Stout as Rumpleteazer; Taylor Brumbaugh as Demeter; Tory Hollingsworth as Jellylorum; Margaret Kellenberger as Jemima; Molly Kellenberger as Coricopat; Makayla Draeger as Tantomile; Hanna Wade as Electra; Hannah Osborn as Etcetera; Josh Velazquez as Growltiger; Cassandria Mills as Exotica; Kennedy Snodgrass as Pouncival; Maya  Strick as Silabub; David Scheuerman as Alonzo; Sarah Williams as Tumblebrutus; Kailan Peters as Carbuckety; Morgan Parrish as Trixie; Parker Leas as Dainty Mae; and Sam Williams as the criminal mastermind McCavity.
    Vocalists, some of whom also dance, are: Jake Forsythe as Rum Tum Tugger; Seth Harley as Skimbleshanks; James Ryals as Bustopher Jones; A.J. Beu who sings Alonzo’s music; Kelly Smith, Tantomile; Diann Mazurek, Carbuckety; Markel Porter, Victoria; Katykay Williams, Exotica; Faith Knoblauch, Etcetera; Dara Restivo, Electra; Ken Kasten, Victor; Cassie Hurt-McLarty, Jemima; Brock Goben, Munkustrap; Lori Stotler, Griddlebone; Susan Curtis, Cassandra; Paula Harms, Pounciful; Courtney Koval, Demeter; Jenifer Hall, Bombalurina; Christina Dominguez-Fracul, Grizabella; Sara Sneed, Jellyloram; Janette Heater, Libercatchy; Nathan Sullins, Mungojerrie; Mary Jo Harper, Rumpleteazer; Gretchen Long, Jennyanydots; Austin Curright,  Asparagus the theater cat; Bill Hall, Old Deuteronomy; Janel Apps Ramsey, Quaxo; and Ethan Fannan, chorus.
    Stage managers are Michael Bowen and Jon Eastman. Joel Viets and Jason Huffman are soundboard operators and the very creative lighting design has been done  by Kristen Burke. Gerard Prime and Steve Darnell are spotlight operators, and serving as accompanist is Janette Heater.

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