Making Memories with “Cats” the Musical

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Buck Snodgrass

Seniors Cassidy Comer and Ryan Hess will take the stage in this year’s musical performance of “Cats.”

Faith Morrow, Editorial Board

   Fur. Whiskers. Paws. “Cats!” Nov. 21-24, GMHS is putting on the obscure, iconic, and magical musical: “Cats.”

   “Cats,” based on poems by T. S. Eliot, debuted as a musical written by Andrew Lloyd Webber in the 80’s. The story introduces several kinds of cats by songs demonstrating whether they deserve to go to the Heaviside Layer/cat Heaven. Ultimately the cat leader, Old Deuteronomy, chooses the once scorned Grizabella to ascend to the Layer.

   With auditions for the show nearly two and a half months ago on Sept. 5, Cats has come a long way and not without the help of many talented individuals.

   GM graduate Maggie Lasher, master stylist of JCPenney’s Salon by InStyle, has created over 30 cat wigs for the show. With each wig taking roughly an hour to complete, Lasher commented “the most challenging part is not being overwhelmed with the amount and just focusing on one wig at a time.” She loves seeing the looks come together and is “so glad the Yates family has let [her] be a part of this production,” she stated.

   Alumna Delaney Gatenby, film and cinema major at Edinboro University, designed 16 makeup looks along with her co-designer, senior Faith Morrow, who completed 14. After helping with makeup for The Addams Family in 2018, director Bruce Yates asked her to come help again for tougher “Cats” makeup, with each look taking around 40-60 minutes to make. “The hardest part is teaching kids who have never touched makeup before the correct techniques and on top of that, making time to teach each student, attend each dress rehearsal and show, and still make it to class,” she said.

   No makeup and wig would be complete without the incredible hand painted and sewn costume pieces. Around 30 leotards, each taking three to six hours, were hand painted by art teacher Kathryn Thompson.    

   “I’m so proud of them. This is the largest amount of art I’ve made,”  Thompson stated. From leggings and arm warmers, to tails and fur details, seamstresses Irene Kipp, Kimberly Neamand, Jen Langer, Sandie Malay, Julia Johnson, the Honeycutt family, Sue Walker, and others could also be found in the costume shop putting together many costume details.

   Although the process is time consuming, Kipp commented, “The people here are wonderful. I love working with the students.” With the costumes being so well made, the Yates plan to rent them out to other groups performing “Cats.”

   The entire Yates family: Bruce, Trisha, Jesse, and Jenna, have of course been thoroughly involved with the show. Bruce has tirelessly organized vocal practices and the orchestra and put together the backtracks for practices. Trisha is the glue that holds the show together as she has given acting construction, made sure costumes are correct, and labored over lighting. Jesse has assisted Buck Snodgrass in creating an incredible set and props. Lastly, with Jenna leading warmups and complicated dance practices, along with the assistance of dance captains Alyvia Carmosino, Cassidy Comer, and Makaela Persons, the choreography has come far. “The story of the show is told with the choreography, which is what makes it so challenging. You have to make sure what you’re doing also relates to the atmosphere of the scene,” Jenna said.

   Snodgrass, creator of the set, has also outdone himself with phenomenal highway bypass scenery. Pipes, ladders, a gigantic mop, secret exits and entrances, train wheels and axles, and a roughly six foot tall cylindrical drum are all parts of the set or props. So many other people have assisted the process including Angela Kanj on props, lighting helpers, stage crew with alumnus Taylor Paulus as co-manager, Carol Blount on sales, and others.

   The cast themselves have put in countless hours to perfect this challenging show, including superintendent Rick Scaletta! The Yates asked him to consider being Old Deuteronomy and he agreed so long as it wouldn’t detract from a student having the role.

   “Not many high schools can do ‘Cats’ because of its difficulty,” Scaletta commented. Senior Madi Wager said the most challenging part for her is catching her breath after dancing. Junior Grace Honeycutt said her biggest difficulty was “moving from the chorus room to the stage.”

   “Cats” will be performed at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 21-23 and 2 p.m. on Nov. 24. Tickets cost $8 for students, $10 for adults, and $15 for reserved. There will be concessions in the lobby along with actual cats up for adoption and Chinese auctions.

   As Carmosino said, “Come see the show: you’ll regret it if you don’t!”