Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The Fosse Feline

Remember my Dangerously Sexy Diva friend, Terra? She's the one who has portrayed Velma Kelly in "Chicago," not only on the Great White Way and in national tours, but also in Paris (in French!). She's back in town, again, singing and slinking her way on stage as 'Bombalurina' in "Cats" with Musical Theatre West.

I had never seen "Cats" performed live on stage, so I was looking forward to experiencing it for the first time. I loved it! The dance productions and the familiar music had me smiling throughout much of the performance. As tempting as it may be to consider the signature song trite and tired, the soloist who sang "Memory" gave the audience a new, powerful interpretation of the song. She brought more beauty and depth to the notes than I had ever heard before and I teared up a little.

The entire cast was marvelous and it was very fulfilling to see this show . . . almost thirty years later.

In the early 80's, my aunt had planned to take me to see "Cats" as a gift for my seventeenth birthday. It was playing at the Pantages Theatre in Hollywood. It had opened only two years before in London.

I am told that my father objected to the idea. "No, don't take him to see this musical," he protested. "He'll come home wanting to take dance lessons, and I want him to go to college."

He was correct. I would have wanted to go to dance class. I had already wanted that a couple of years before when I became fifteen. I still wanted it after turning eighteen - and I went after it as soon as I had moved out of my parents' house, as soon as possible.

But I had always wondered: How much more directly inspired might I have been if I had been able to see "Cats" when I was seventeen? How much more aggressive would I have been in my pursuits to become a real dancer? How much more courageous would I have been about my goals?

I know it's pointless to consider what could have been, but I can't help doing so, every now and then.

It was fulfilling to finally see a complete and professional production of "Cats." I'm too old, now, to be as nimble and fluid as the gymnasts and ballet-trained performers I watched on stage. Surprisingly, I felt neither jealous nor bitter. As a spectator, I reveled in their youth and their agility, and in their pure joy of dance and performance.

Terra, as always, was flawless in her performance. As 'Bombalurina' she was a very sultry feline, both as a featured vocalist and in her kitty choreography.
It was wondrous to watch her Fosse trained body roll a shoulder, pose with the trademark broken wrist, and undulate in waves through her torso and limbs. She was the Fosse Feline. Even just the way Terra casts her gaze downward always reminds me of Ann Reinking.

I think part of why I enjoyed the show so much is precisely because I am older. I knew about the character of 'Grizabella,' the tragic, older, dying cat, but I hadn't expected to relate to her, even just a little. Gone are "my days in the sun" as a young performer, brief and modest as they might have been. In an attempt to embrace a more age appropriate lifestyle, I am ready to be lifted up to "the heavy side layer" - not in actual death, just to the next level of my life.

No, I am not dying, neither literally or even symbolically. But I do cherish the 'Memory.'


Cheryl said...

I'm glad I'm not the only person on this planet who loves Cats in a non-ironic way. The choreography is amazing, and the show really does capture the many variations of the feline personality. And yeah, Grizabella meowing to maintain her dignity despite the cruelties of age got me when I was 17, and it gets me now.

Peter Varvel said...

Cheryl, T.S. Eliot aside, I really thought it was going to be about "dancing pussies" (as it's referred to on 'The Nanny').
I didn't know mortality was such a key factor!
And, yes, I forgot to include how much the show reminded me of our own feline daughter and the feral friends in our backyard. :)

mr jp said...

You're not THAT OLD ... haha

Peter Varvel said...

mr jp, no, but for how short a dancer's career can be - and for how quickly physical limitations set in - I may as well be DEAD ha ha!