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Williamsport's 'Cats' pounces, slinks, crawls on stage this weekend

April 10, 2013|By AMY DULEBOHN | amyc@herald-mail.com
  • Williamsport High School actors rehearse for their production of "Cats," which opens Friday, April 12, and will run through two weekends.
By Colleen McGrath/Staff Photographer

WILLIAMSPORT — The scene outside the auditorium of Williamsport High School was bustling Monday evening as parents, staff and choral booster members helped cast members put on makeup and costumes and rehearse music to prepare for the school’s production of “Cats,” which opens at 7:30 p.m. Friday, April 12.

“It takes a village,” said Michelle Rafter, head of the fine arts department and choral director at Williamsport High School, as she gestured across the room. “There’s a lot of community involvement.”

Rafter said many volunteers are helping with the show, based on the Broadway musical by Andrew Lloyd Webber and T.S. Eliot’s “Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats.”

“This is a huge show for a small school,” she said.

The “visually stunning” show has a cast of 38 with about two dozen more students in the pit and crew. The production includes complex costumes and makeup, as well as the lights and the set. Plus, Rafter added, the show is challenging to perform.

“It’s completely sung, so the kids don’t get a break,” she said.

And because they are acting as agile Cats, there is a lot of calisthenics for the performers, who Rafter said have been rehearsing since mid-January.

“‘Cats’ is everybody’s story,” she said. “It’s not your standard boy meets girls.”

The ensemble cast allows everyone to tell their story. “It’s so different from what everyone is used to.” Rafter said, adding that that uniqueness is part of the enduring success of the show, which debuted in London in 1981.

“Cats” is the story of a group of felines who meet for their annual Jellicle Ball and tell their individual life stories. Rafter said audience members at the school’s production will receive a synoposis sheet explaining the background of each of the principal cat characters.

Rafter said some actors learned their music before rehearsals began.

“Many of them used their own resources to get what they needed and then came to us for the fine tuning,” she said.

Hope Wolford, 17, a junior from Williamsport, plays Demeter. Hope describes her character as “skittish,” mostly because of her past relationship with another cat, Macavity.

“I really enjoy performing,” she said.

Hope has been in productions at the high school since she was in eighth grade, and has also been on stage at Apollo Civic Theatre in Martinsburg, W.Va. While Hope hasn’t decided on where she wants to go college, she is sure that she wants to move to a warmer climate, and maybe pursue her dream job.

“I would love to (be a character) for Disney, but who knows?” she said, while applying layers of moisturizer, primer, eyeliner and other makeup for the show.

Kaitlyn Lamkin, 18, a senior, plays Rumpleteazer; one half of a set of mischievous twins. She has participated in other plays at Williamsport High School, and also at Boonsboro High School, her former school.

The Williamsport teen plans to attend classes at Hagerstown Community College in the fall, as she narrows down her career path. But like Hope, Kaitlyn has her eyes set on a larger, albeit warmer, stage.

“I would like to go to work for Disney in Florida or California. I would love to be Ariel (from ‘The Little Mermaid’),” she said.

Playing Rumpleteazer’s ornery twin, Mungojerrie, is sophomore Luke Draper. He and Kaitlyn sing a duet in the musical.

Luke was in the high school’s production of “Music Man” when he was a seventh-grader at Springfield Middle School, and performed last year as a freshman in “No No, Nanette.” At 15, he said he isn’t sure of his future plans, but probably will include being in some aspect of theater.

“I like being the center of attention,” he said.

The students agree that the show is going to be worth checking out, but Kaitlyn said the production is bittersweet, particularly for the seniors, who will making their final curtain call with the show.

“I’m so excited for (the show) to start, but I don’t want it to be over,” she said.

“I think it’s going to be a lot of fun,” Luke said.





If you go ...       

WHAT: “Cats”

WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Fridays, April 12 and 19, and Saturdays, April 13 and 20; 2 p.m. Saturdays, April 13 and 20, and Sunday, April 14

WHERE: Williamsport High School auditorium, 5 S. Clifton Drive, Williamsport

COST: $10; $7 for students and senior citizens.

CONTACT: To purchase tickets, call 301-766-8433. Tickets may be paid for in advance by cash or check payable to Williamsport High School.

MORE: Evening shows might sell out. Organizers recommend reserving tickets early or attend matinee shows.




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