Last night was not typical of Tuesdays at the Batts house. We went to see "Cats"! The blockbuster Broadway hit is playing at Raleigh Memorial Auditorium, and we were there for the opening of the Broadway Series South Show. My daughter, Anna, and I had been looking forward to this for months, and we were certainly not disappointed.
I love musicals, thanks in large part to my former dance teacher Barbara Smith. Barbara also loved Broadway tunes and used them for her annual dance recitals. In my many years with Barbara (both as a student and teacher assistant), I learned the lyrics to so many shows from "The King and I" to "Oliver."
Atlantic Christian College English professor and newspaper adviser Mike Fukuchi also loves Broadway shows, and he kept me interested in my years at ACC. It was "Doc" as I call him, who helped me see my first Broadway show — "Cats." I group of us were in New York City for a newspaper convention, and Doc was with us. As soon as we got of the airplane that cold March morning, Doc lead several of us into the city to secure tickets for different shows. The most coveted ticket was for the relatively new musical, "Cats." We were elated to hold the tickets in our hands, although this eastern N.C. girl was shocked at the cost. $50 to $75, I think. I didn't care. The show was fantastic. I was completely mesmerized with the lights, the dancing, the excitement of being on Broadway! I had learned the lyrics to most of the songs because I had listened to the album (yes, album!) over and over in the weeks leading up to our trip, so I sang along silently as the actors, including Betty Buckley, entertained me with their songs.
I've never forgotten that experience. It opened my eyes to all the wonders of stage.
A few years ago, Anna had found my CD of "Cats" (Yes, I had upgraded) and she, too, enjoyed listening to the songs. It was natural we would want to see the show.
The Broadway South production is just as exciting as I remember from 20-odd years ago in New York. The dancing, music, costumes and sets still mesmerized me. I especially loved the rousing tap number with Jennyanydots and the beatle tatoo as well as the fun Skimbleshanks routine with the train. I realized early into last night's show that I was grinning. It was such a treat to see it all again — The Rum Tum Tugger hamming it up; Mungojerrie and Rumpelteazer being plain silly; and the haunting sound of Grizabella singing "Memory." Wow.
Anna and her dad, Reggie, had the same reactions I had. I listened to them talk about the amazing voices that sometimes brought chill bumps, to their fascination with the athleticism of the dancers. They talked about the special effects including dramatic lighting and a cannon of sorts that shoots ribbons into the audience. I was afraid they would think the show was silly, but they didn't. They appreciated it for the same reasons I did: the music, the dancing, the costumes, the excitement.