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Dogs as CATS: Thomson High sets stage for furry musical

It's a bulldog's worst nightmare - cats... lots of cats.

Actually, it's more like a dream come true for the Thomson Bulldog Players, who will be performing CATS in the Thomson High auditorium.

Chorus teacher Janet Bailey said CATS is a "really different musical" that has brought a new level of learning to the students. It differs from previous musicals performed by the students in that it involves combining choreographed dance moves with non-stop singing, the high school orchestra and professional costumes.

"It's a new venture for us," Ms. Bailey said. "It's a challenge for the students, having to sing and dance at the same time. They're having to multi-task."

Mrs. Bailey is director of the production, Becky Morlan is choreographer, Jessie Morlan is conductor, Kelly Flanders is set coordinator and parent volunteer Tammy Sutton is make-up artist.

Ms. Bailey said she was looking for an Andrew Lloyd Webber musical "because he's a fabulous composer," and CATS fit the bill because it uses a large number of students with no specific lead character or gender preferences.

"It gives so many students the opportunity to show their talents," she said. "Even the smallest part has to work hard. I didn't realize how difficult the music was, but they're going to pull it off. I can tell you that."

According to his website, Mr. Webber first began setting T.S. Eliot's Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats to music in 1977. Since its first performance in 1981, the musical has won numerous prestigious awards.

The story, which contains no spoken lines, is the story of a group of cats who unite in a junk yard on a special night to celebrate who they are. The story involves sirens, barking dogs, a "Jellicle Ball," an electrical explosion and magic tricks.

"The story is complex," said Sophomore Blake Hyatt, who plays the part of Munkustrap. "It goes from a somber mood to somebody just bursting right after that."

A poster just inside the chorus room door instructs students to "remember that you are not a person anymore. As soon as you enter this room, you are a cat." This is what makes the drama a challenge for the students, most of whom have been in musicals before.

"Getting into the mindset of the character is way different. Especially if you don't even have a cat at home," said Senior Kimberly Adkins, who plays the part of Bombalurina.

This is the first musical for which the school has rented costumes, Mrs. Bailey said. The costumes came from The Costumer in Albany, N.Y. After a few practices, Mrs. Sutton estimates it will take a team of seven volunteers approximately three to four hours to apply the make-up for the performances.

"I love them to death, I feel like they're my own kids, now," Mrs. Sutton said. "I'm sad it's almost over. They are a good group of kids, talented and dedicated."

The performance will be at 7 p.m., Thursday through Saturday, Feb. 1-3 in the Thomson High School Auditorium. General admission is $7 and reserved seating is $10. Call the high school office at 706-986-4200.

Web posted on Thursday, January 25, 2007

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