The arrival of musical Cats in Tasmania is more than just another a show, it’s a homecoming for Tasmanian performers Bree Langridge and James Cooper, writes Ben Waterworth.
ANDREW Lloyd Webber’s musical Cats will fill up the Derwent Entertainment Centre from December 10 for six shows featuring two homegrown stars.
Bree Langridge and James Cooper will take to the stage, with Cooper portraying the main villain Macavity and Langridge taking on the role as kitten Electra.
Though they have known each other for years, the performers have followed different paths on their way to the big time.
Langridge and Cooper were students at Body Language Dance Studio in Hobart in the early 2000s, and Cooper said it was amazing to be able to perform alongside Langridge.
“We hadn’t really spoken in 10 years, so to have her in the show is great,” he told the Mercury from Sydney, where the show runs until the end of the month. “We know each other from back when we were in school, so it works.”
Cooper, who lives in Hobart and still teaches at Body Language, serves as the dance captain for the show, and, aside from portraying Macavity, will be seen as the cat Admetus in other parts of the show.
It is a role that Cooper is familiar with, having landed the role in the 2008 national production of the musical.
“I had been in Melbourne for nine months when I was first cast,” he said. “I always enjoyed the show. It’s just a great show that as a performer you dream to be apart of.”
For Langridge, it is the first time she has been involved in Cats, and is one of the few people in the cast who hadn’t been involved in the show before.
A late casting choice, she had less than a month to prepare for her role.
“I had never done this before, so to have only three weeks to learn it was very daunting,” she said. “Rehearsals were very fullon but there was a lot of improv during rehearsals which helped.”
Langridge said that after rehearsals she was quick to adapt to the production.
“It’s run like a well-oiled machine,” she said. “We’re only backstage for around 15 minutes, which is rare. We’re always pretty much on stage. I’m even used to doing my makeup now in about 20 minutes. It’s very well run.”
The production will ship to Tasmania off the back of a month-long run at the Capitol Theatre in Sydney, which in itself proves to be an epic performance.
The show requires eight trucks to transport it across Bass Straight, with the sets, musical instruments and sound and lighting systems coming together with hundreds of costumes and wigs and more than 100 lamps for the lighting rig.
A team of more than 70 people are then tasked to work around the clock to ensure the show’s ready for opening night.
Cats resident director Stephen Morgante said the show was well suited to travel to any venue.
“We performed this in stadiums for 10,000 people in Taiwan, and we converted the Badminton venue from the 2004 Athens Olympics into a theatre,” he said. “That’s the great thing about Cats, it’s a show that can pretty much be performed on any stage.
“It’s rare to come to Tassie for shows like this. I haven’t been to Tasmania since 1984 for a show, so to get this opportunity to bring this to Tassie is great.”
More than 73 million people have seen Cats since it first premiered in London in 1981, and Morgante said the show’s appeal comes down to the characters and their reflection on society.
“It just doesn’t talk to you, it lets you choose which cat you can relate to,” he said. “People find themselves watching different cats on stage and paying attention to different characters each night. It’s unique.”
For Langridge and Cooper, coming home to Tasmania for Cats will not only give them a chance to showcase their talents, it will also provide an opportunity to engage with local talent in the same way that were presented to them when they started out.
“When I was starting out in the early 1990s, my dance teacher would go out of her way and spend lots of money to bring professional performers down to us to teach us,” Langridge said. “We’re always visiting schools and classes in Tasmania when we’re back. It shows how far it has come. The scene in Hobart has changed, there is just so much going on.”
This article was originally written for The Mercury