Skimbleshanks, Rum Tum Tugger and Bombalurina; Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School theatre teacher Betsy Hauck counted these and more nonsensical names on her fingers like she would family members coming over for a dinner party. But it’s no party. It’s the dress rehearsal for this year’s high school musical.
Anyone who has seen Cats — on Broadway, at the local theatre, or as a high school performance — not only knows who Bombalurina is, but most likely can sing the words to Grizabella’s well-known song, Memory, too.
But for those who haven’t already had the pleasure of seeing this classic 1980s musical, the high school’s rendition will premiere at the school’s Performing Arts Center on Thursday, Feb. 13, at 7:30 p.m., with three other performances throughout the weekend.
Dressed in a baggy, mop-like costume, senior Liam Craffey will portray Old Deuteronomy.
“He’s the grandfather, everybody loves him,” he said of his character during Sunday’s rehearsal. “He’s going to pick who will be revived in a different cat form.”
Perhaps it’s time to back up a minute and get a tutorial from Ms. Hauck, the play’s director.
“You can’t really pick up the story just from watching the show,” she said, partly because it is written as all music, with no dialogue.
The story follows an eclectic group of felines known as the Jellicle Cats, who meet once a year for the Jellicle Ball. The patriarch, Old Deuteronomy, picks one cat from the group to be reborn on the Heaviside Layer. Each cat sings a song best presenting itself for a chance at a new life, while the others crawl around the stage, listen attentively, scratch their backs and occasionally give their costume a good lick.
“Remember what we worked on,” Ms. Hauck said to the cats at rehearsal as a piano tinkled away in a minor key. “Stay cat-like, don’t lose it, be defensive.”
Even the mischievous felines, such as Mungojerrie played by junior Katherine Reid, present themselves in a good light in hopes of being reborn.
“Mungojerrie is a thief cat, she has a twin sister and has worked with Macavity, the bad guy,” Katherine said. “Each cat has an identity. They have to figure their identity out and portray it through song.”
Some cats are shaggy. Others are sleek, orange, striped, tamed, wild, plain or fancy. English teacher David Wilson has a gray mustache peeking out from his particularly poofy wig and acts as an extra cat alongside two other faculty members, while two former students have joined the main cast.
“The best part of the process has been the teamwork and collaboration,” Ms. Hauck said.
The music composed by Andrew Lloyd Webber, will be performed by a 12-piece orchestra of students, teachers and fellow Islanders with piano, percussion, horns and strings.
“It’s a whole Island event,” said the school’s music director Jan Wightman. “Kids get to perform with adults and see their work ethic.”
Parents and teachers have volunteered, not just as actors and musicians, but as set designers and carpenters, too.
“There’s no one real star in this show,” said Ms. Hauck.
Cats runs from Feb. 13 to 16. Showtimes are at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, Friday and Saturday, and at 2 p.m. on Sunday. General admission is $10. Seniors and students $7.