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Cats

“Cats,” much like “Titanic” and other pop culture icons that have enjoyed extreme popularity, now seems to have more “haters” than fans, a trend that contradicts the show’s lengthy success. But the accolades don’t lie: With music by Andrew Lloyd Webber, the show won seven Tony awards in 1983, including best musical. It’s also the longest-running musical in the history of British theater, and it played for 18 years on Broadway. The national tour has been on the road for 25 years, and has played in 26 countries spanning five continents.

Clearly, “Cats” must be doing something right. And a hefty portion of the estimated nine million people who’ve seen the show must enjoy the music and story, which follows a group of cats as they gather for the Jellicle Ball, at which the sage Old Deuteronomy will choose a cat to be reborn into a new life on the Heaviside Layer.

You can judge for yourself whether the naysayers are correct when the Broadway Across America tour of “Cats” comes to your town.

So what keeps people coming back to the “Cats”? “The wonderful thing about doing the show is that it’s so creative,” said Anastasia Lange, who plays one of the older cats, Grizabella. “As actors we have a lot of freedom to improvise on stage. You can look at any of the 20 characters in the show at any time and I’m sure he or she will be doing something worth watching.”

That “something” is the inherently unique appeal of watching actors move like cats. “A lot of our time is devoted every day to the mannerisms and characteristics of cats,” said Lange, who grew up with cats in her home in Grand Rapids, Michigan. “It’s a huge part of our rehearsal process. I think one of the appeals of the show is the transformation the actors make with the makeup, wigs and costumes. You really do believe you’re seeing cats.”

Lange was also quite eloquent in discussing the differences between live theater and other entertainment mediums, a dynamic that no doubt also contributes to the success of “Cats.” “People in live entertainment experience something as it’s created, and there’s something special about that connection with the audience,” Lange said. “As opposed to other entertainment mediums such art, movies and television in which people experience the art after it has been created, and perhaps edited. I truly believe the live audience drives the performers on the stage, and the audience gets a better performance because of that energy.”

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