By: Valerie Oliveiro
Purr with pleasure, the CATS are back for the annual Jellicle Ball in Singapore! From April 10 to May 3, CATS will play at the Esplanade Theatre. Under the moonlight, ArtZine prowls with the felines while actors Delia Hannah, John Ellis and John O’Hara share their hair-raising cat tales.
“Grizabella… She has certain innate qualities, a deep sense of pride and she tries, despite everything that has happened to her, to hold onto her dignity! She is a Star who has been shot down by “life”,” begins Delia as she describes Grizabella the Glamour Cat.
“She’s a little like me,” she adds like an afterthought. “But I’m not prepared to say in what way!” Grizabella, The Glamour Cat, is shunned by the rest of the tribe despite being a Jellicle Cat.
Those who are unfamiliar with the works of Andrew Lloyd Webber might only recognise one song: Memory. The hit song has been recorded by over 120 artists and is sung by Grizabella in CATS.
Delia comments on the poignant song. “I find this a very moving song to sing. There is something so sublimely beautiful about its simplicity! It is the perfect ‘touch-stone’ for this show and without the moments that Grizabella provides, the show wouldn’t be as satisfying to the audience or the performers. In a way this song represents Grizabella’s last chance to be accepted and chosen to be reborn in to a new life.”
Ellis, who plays the role of the wise cat Old Deuteronomy, agrees that the song is so well-worded. “To me, it is like a book of worship, a mantra, not a lot is said, but what is said is so strong, so powerful. I like to think that [Old Deuteronomy] had a hand in Grizabella’s coming to terms with these thoughts and ideas.”
O’Hara loves hearing Delia sing every night. “Anyone who likes musicals has heard ‘Memory’; it’s a theatrical anthem. I think the song is beautiful and tragic all at the same time. Delia’s version of the song is incredible; I get tears in my eyes every night… that woman can sing!”
Indeed, she can! She’s no stranger to theatre, having played the same role previously in Australia’s Cats Run Away with the Circus. This will be her returning role after taking time off after the birth of her daughter.
For Delia, the key to keeping the character fresh each night is to “never allow myself to feel so comfortable on stage that I start getting bored or complacent about performing any role. It always feels like it’s a challenge to perform to the best of my ability every single night! It’s probably this quiet search for perfection that keeps it ‘fresh’ for me and hopefully for anyone watching. My philosophy is that everyone who pays a lot of money to come and see live theatre deserves the best show we can do!”
Ellis adds, “The story of course, stays the same, however the events in the show take on a different shape due to the actors different energy on each new day. The best part is to see the power of all the cats, working together, dancing and playing, the energy that is created is unbeatable.”
However O’Hara finds that energy depends on the amount of audience interaction. “In a show like CATS we rely on the audience reaction to drive us and to drive the story telling. Rum Tum Tugger (his character) is such a free spirit and a lot of my time onstage is improvised so that also keeps me fresh.”
“The great thing about theatre (as opposed to film) is that you can’t help but keep it fresh. With each new audience comes a new atmosphere.” – John O’Hara
So you’ve got your part to play in the Jellicle Ball!
Why are you growling? Hate cats? Sit and stay, mutts – this production might well change your perception of cats. As it did for Ellis. “I have always been a dog person but now I understand cats. We are a complexed mix of energy. I now feel that I have always just misunderstood the cat…”
The three actors seem to share different views on their love for cats.
O’Hara mentions, “Oh I totally prefer cats. I find Dogs annoying; they’re constantly looking for your approval. I love that cats are aloof and comfortable in their own company. I think cats are a little arrogant and sensual… I find that intriguing.”
Delia, on the other hand loves both dogs and cats. “I have a gorgeous two year old miniature schnauzer and I’d really like to have a cat as well.”
April 10 – May 3, 2009
Tickets available from SISTIC: $40 – $170
“An exhilarating and mystical night of music and dance that the whole family will enjoy and never forget!” – Delia Hannah (as Grizabella)
“The most eager, energetic, and eclectic bunch of felines you’re ever likely to meet.” – John O’Hara (as Rum Tum Tugger)
“We are not Dogs!” – John Ellis (as Old Deuteronomy)