Cortland Repertory Theatre has announced that the previously undisclosed show for the 2012 season is Andrew Lloyd Webber's hit musical "CATS", which will run from July 11 – 28. CRT's Producing Artistic Director Kerby Thompson explains why the show had been kept a secret until now. "A national touring company of "CATS" recently played Binghamton. Because of our proximity to that city, the Rogers and Hammerstein Organization, which owns the royalty and distribution rights to all of Webber's shows, didn't allow us to announce our production until the tour had played its performances." Thompson says. The Binghamton performances were on March 11.
Based on the universally popular poetry of T.S. Eliot, "CATS" tells the story, in song and dance, of the annual gathering of Jellicle cats at which time one special cat is selected to ascend to the Heaviside layer. A true musical theatre phenomenon, "CATS" opened at London's New London Theatre on May 11, 1981 and ran for a record-setting 21 years. This London success was nearly matched on Broadway where it ran at the Wintergarden Theatre for just over 18 years.
Thompson admits that taking on "CATS" at CRT is ambitious. "It certainly is going to be a challenge to produce this icon of a show" Thompson says. "However, it's going to be an invigorating and exciting experience, especially with the ideas our director and production team have to make this a unique show in our intimate space. I guarantee you've never seen a production like this!"
Thompson has chosen Barbara Hartwig to direct and choreograph the show. Working for her first time at CRT, Hartwig comes to Cortland from Myrtle Beach, South Carolina where she is on the dance faculty at Coastal Carolina University. She has appeared on Broadway, danced at the White House with Mikhail Baryshnikov and recently finished a four year stint at Walt Disney World. She has performed, directed and choreographed for numerous theme parks, cruise ships, regional theatres and universities around the country, and also toured Europe playing the role of Ado Annie in "Oklahoma!" Joel Gelpe, a music director on the faculty of Ithaca College will serve as Music Director. He has led over one hundred shows, including the 25th Anniversary National Tour of Evita directed by Broadway legend Harold Prince, and a National Tour of 42nd Street. New York area credits include the music direction for Music-Theatre Group's The Odyssey at the 92nd Street Y starring Mary Beth Hurt and Kate Burton, and productions of Cabaret, Chicago, andFootloose at the Westchester Broadway Theatre. Joel was also rehearsal pianist for both the Broadway company and First National Tour of Little Shop of Horrors. The design team for the show consists of many returning staff members, including Jason Bolen (sets), Jimmy Johansmeyer (costumes), Shawn Boyle (lights) and Sam Sheehan (props). Seth Sengel is making his CRT debut as Sound Designer. The show will be Stage Managed by returnee Eric Behnke.
Also in place for the summer are directors for the other 5 shows in CRT season. Thompson himself will be directing the new farce "The Ladies Man" (June 6 – 16). Bert Bernardi will direct "Grease!" (June 20 – July 7) which will be choreographed by SUNY Cortland dance instructor Cynthia Halpin, with music direction by Ithaca College graduate Logan Culwell. Jim Bumgardner returns for his 12th season to direct Agatha Christie's "The Hollow" (August 1 – 11). Bill Kincaid, fresh from directing last season's "Chicago" and performing in "Souvenir" will direct "The Drawer Boy" (August 15 – 25). Bernardi returns at the end of the summer to direct "The Mystery of Irma Vep" (August 29 – September 8).