When Cats became available to local theatres this year after a record-breaking New York run and a long and thriving life on the road, critics were still trying to figure out what it was about this nearly plotless musical that made it an all-time audience favorite. Surely the devotion of cat-lovers, numerous as they are, couldn't account for 18 years, 7,485 performances, 8 million tickets, and a gross of $380 million on Broadway (and nearly $3 billion worldwide).

Photo of cast of Boulder's Dinner Theatre's Cats
Cast of Boulder's Dinner Theatre's Cats
But in moving from large urban performance halls—such as our own Buell Theatre—into small, intimate local spaces, in this case Boulder's Dinner Theatre, the production takes on a different life that lays bare its instrinsic charm. Emancipated from over-amplification and larger-than-life posturing, the actors freely mingle with the audience and naturally modulate their inflections of T.S. Eliot's 14 affectionate verses that form the backbone of the musical.

Suddenly, the presentational affectations necessary to play to the back row of voluminous auditoriums vanish, and a personal tone, reminscent of that between cat and human, establishes the anthropomorphic personalities of the unique, but archetypically familiar, feline characters.

In choosing Stephen Bertles to direct, new BDT artistic director, Michael J. Duran, continues to exhibit why he was an excellent choice to follow in Ross Haley's footsteps and build on the strengths of what has long been the best dinner theatre in the region.

Photo of Shelly Cox-Robie as Grizabella
Shelly Cox-Robie as Grizabella
Bertles' familiarity with Cats, from his experience as a castmember of the national tour, shows throughout the production, from the detailed recreations of the original make-up to the spirited, free-flowing choreography.

With 20 separate and, of course, VERY special cats making appearances—most of whom have their own songs and moments in the sun—the depth of BDT's ensemble is, once again, evident. Shelly Cox-Robie, as Grizabella, is called on to deliver the signature "Memory," and deliver it she does, wringing all the pathos possible from her ominous entrance and the soaring dynamics of the tune itself, including its reprise.

Photo of Joanie Brousseau-Beyette as Rumpleteazer and Stephen Bertles<br>as Mungojerrie
Joanie Brousseau-Beyette as
Rumpleteazer and Stephen
Bertles as Mungojerrie
John Scott Clough shines as Munkustrap, with both his elegant dancing and fine voice, particularly in "The Old Gumbie Cat" and "Old Deuteronomy"; Scott Beyette puts on a splashy show as Rum Tum Tugger, sending the she-cats into purr-ambulations with his swivel-hipped Elvis send-up; Wayne Kennedy warms the heart as Old Deuteronomy, wrapping the entire proceedings in Old Testament patriarchical sanctity; Joanie Brousseau-Beyette bursts with infectious fun as Rumpleteazer, in both the rollicking burlesque dance number with Stephen Bertles' demonstrative Mungojerrie, and in her comical mockeries of "Memory"; and, in addition to her always steady hoofing, Cindy Lawrence finally gets to show off her bright soprano in a sweet number with the delightful, tuxedo-clad, white-gloved, spat-shorn A.K. Klimpke, as Bustopher Jones.

Neal Dunfee's well-tempered 10 piece orchestra is dazzling; Linda Morken's costumes and wigs, recreated from the Broadway designs, lend added authenticity; and BDT's incomparable ensemble, enhanced with some notable dance talent, delivers the knockout punch.

Boulder's Dinner Theatre's Cats runs through May 1st. 303-449-6000.

Bob Bows


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