The Jellicle Ball has arrived in Albuquerque and all the cats are coming out to play.
For just one weekend, Popejoy Hall is being transformed into the “junkyard” where dancing and singing cats attend the Jellicle Ball. Cats the Musical is based on Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats by T.S. Eliot.
“We play in the house a lot so it’s really interactive, and in this case, at this theatre, it’s great for us because we can really be, sort of, immersed in the group,” said Timothy Gulan, an actor in the show.
But what’s a Jellicle Cat?
“Jellicle really just means it’s a sound a kid would give to a cat when they would be calling a cat. That’s what it is.That’s really what it meant when T.S. Eliot wrote the poems,” said Gulan. “Every year, once a year, we get together and have this ball, essentially, where you pick who will be deemed worthy, they basically get to be reborn as a totally different cat.”
That cat goes to what they call the Heaviside Layer.
Composed by Andrew Lloyd Webber, it first premiered in London’s West End in 1981, then the original Broadway production opened in 1982 and ran for 18 years. It returned to Broadway for just over a year back in 2016. The national tour kicked off earlier this year.
Gulan plays four characters in the show — Bustopher Jones, Gus the Theatre Cat, Rumpus and Peter — and says it’s great that after all this time, generations of people are still coming out.
“It’s pretty amazing this tour, at this level, has not been out for a long time. People are coming out in droves. We recently broke a box office record in Denver for the sales in one week and we broke a Cats record for sales in one week which is pretty amazing, considering the show has been around since 1981,” said Gulan. “I think all of us, cast, crew, staff, we’re pretty proud of that. It’s been great, the audience reaction has been fantastic.”
For fans of the show and those who have seen it in the past, Gulan says the revival includes some new additions.
“If you’ve seen the show before, seeing it again is going to be a different experience which is really cool because Andy Blankenbuehler’s choreography is mixed with Gillian Lynne’s so there’s a lot of this ballet element from the ’80s, and a lot of that type of style, but there’s also stuff you might see on So You Think You Can Dance,” said Gulan. “The order of the show is different than it used to be and the characters that are singing some of the songs are different than they used to be.”
Many of the cats are also debuting more character flaws this time around, fitting with the show’s central theme.
“The show’s really about redemption and if you don’t have a flaw, there’s no reason to need redemption so that’s woven in there,” said Gulan.
The show is in Albuquerque for a limited time. You can attend the Jellicle Ball this weekend through Sunday, May 19. Tickets are still available online and at the Popejoy box office.