Haglund used to walk by the Winter Garden Theater and wonder when in the heck that CATS musical would close. He’d seen it a few times over its 18 year run, knew a few of the cats in it who frequented classes at David Howard’s studio, and had bought many tickets for relatives and friends for whom CATS was the #1 destination when coming into town. But he was tired of seeing the branding and hearing the melodies everywhere.
Flash forward 16 years since the show’s closing, and there was Haglund last night in the Neil Simon Theatre weeping with happiness as soon as music started - wiping his tears with $100 worth of tee-shirt and hoodie-with-ears that he couldn’t resist buying on the way in. Oh, the memories.
The crowd was a terrific mix of 1st and 2nd generation CATS goers. Parents brought their kids to see what they had seen and enjoyed so much decades ago. At the conclusion of the show, the orchestra continued to play as the audience exited. People sang their way out the door – cats-caroling down the stairs and through the lobby. Such happiness was the perfect prescribed relief for an otherwise difficult and tragic news day.
Haglund didn’t observe too many changes although his memory is a little dim on the details. The license plate number on the car in the junkyard changed. It used to be TSE for TS Eliot; now it’s some other initials with a 70. There was a buckslip in the program that said “At this performance New Dance Arrangements for 'The Rum Tum Tugger' and 'Magical Mister Mistoffelees' are by John Clancy,” –– perhaps someone else who attends later on will be able to discuss the changes. Rum Tum Tugger seemed to have a little less Mick Jagger swagger in him but otherwise was perfection.
Our Georgina Pazcoguin was fantastic as the white cat Victoria and made a very big impression on the kids in the audience. She had the best costume, of course, and stood out in every ensemble piece. Her final featured spot, when she softly traversed the stage to rub against Grizabella (the incredible Leona Lewis) to let her know that she’d been chosen to begin a new life, was emotionally touching. When Grizabella began to rise into the air, parents around Haglund were giving quiet explanations about death and how cats have nine lives. (Cue the weeping again.)
Quentin Earl Darrington as Victor/Old Deuteronomy stole the show. What a voice! And such a magnificent presence on the stage as well.
While CATS’ first life in New York lasted 18 years, this one may go on forever.