“What does it mean, mommy?”
“I don’t know dear. Go ask T.S. Eliot.”
If you spend too much time interpreting Cats, based on Old Possom’s Book of Practical Cats by T.S. Eliot, then you’ve likely missed the point. Even if there is a point, and if Andrew Lloyd Webber was inscrutably conveying a message through the musical, then I’ll tell you right now that you just don’t get it. Cats is otherworldly; it’s beyond us. It’s Jellicle. And to understand Jellicle, you need to get to the Paramount now and catch Shawn Stengel’s beautifully spectacular production of Cats. You will encounter the likes of Jennyanydots, an old gumbie cat whose costume is incredibly impressive, and Mistoffelees, cleverly played by Terrance Martin. Of course, two performances stand out in Paramount’s Cats: Lauren Villegas as Grizabella and Sawyer Smith as Rum Tum Tugger. Villegas plays Grizabella so well that we don’t even bother questioning the need of a back story as to why the glamour cat was cast out of the tribe in the first place (OK. Maybe I was curious.) and her rendition of “Memory” was so deep and sorrowful that you just want to rub her belly. As far as Smith goes, he is quickly becoming an Aurora favorite. After putting depth and sass into last season’s production of RENT, Smith once again adds humor, hip thrusts, and great dance moves to the stage. As with every Paramount production under the artistic direction of Jim Corti, Cats is incredibly choreographed and from silks to bungies to two acrobatic cats, the show brings non-stop excitement with every musical number. Cats introduces us all to the magical world of cockroach training and midnight dances, and we get a primer on the principal feline characters that make up the fantastical world of the Jellicles. It’s weird, but you’ll love it.
Cats is now showing at the Paramount Theatre in Aurora, Ill. through Oct. 12. Call (630) 896-6666 for tickets. Cats is rated G for all audiences.