“Memory, all alone in the moonlight!” Whether we love or loathe musicals, there’s no denying that most of us have heard this signature line from Cats. The hit musical tells the story of the Jellicles – a tribe of cats – and their nightly escapades.
The acclaimed revival of this musical hit the Hong Kong stage earlier this month, and to learn more about it, three Junior Reporters – Angelina Wang, Ally Chan, and Abbie Leung – went backstage ... and got a feline makeover in the process!
Featuring magnificent sets, an iconic score, brilliant choreography, and stunning costumes, Cats brings a fun, fresh – and a deeply emotional experience – to its audience.
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A visual spectacle
“Audiences should have no expectations, because they’ll be blasted away,” said Marina Stevenson, Resident Director of Cats. “Come in with an open mind! The Cats will show you a good time.”
“Cats is an extremely visual show,” she added. “The story is told through the beautiful songs, as well as through the movement. So despite the language barrier, audiences are able to connect to one or more aspects of the show.”
So what are the show’s highlights? The iconic song, Memory, sung by the talented Joanna Ampil, will have you bawling! The Jellicle Ball is also an artistic masterpiece. While the lyrics might seem bare at first, the music gives way to nine minutes of some of the finest dancing you’ll ever see on the stage.
Angelina Wang, 16, Chinese International School
Blood, sweat and tears
In the world of theatre, there is always keen competition among performers to play a certain role. But, Marina told us, that isn’t the case with the cast of Cats.
Many of the understudies are chosen during the audition process. An actor cast in a minor role will be on standby for a more prominent role. Everybody knows what their job is.
One of the many features that distinguishes Cats from other musicals is the larger-than-life set. Everything is created from the perspective of cats, making each object appear enormous to the audience. In addition, the musical’s colourful costumes and intricate make-up are very distinctive.
Cats is one of the longest-running shows on Broadway. Maintaining its high standards hasn’t been easy. Performers and the crew put in four to six weeks of rehearsal time, and work from 9am-11pm every day. As audiences will agree, their hard work has paid off.
Abbie Leung, 16, St Mary’s Canossian College
Good make-up ensures the characters are believable. I was given a makeover as Jennyanydots by actor Amy Whittle.
She started with derma powder in two colours: orange and white. Then she went straight into the hard part: the eyes.
For anyone who has ever attempted to apply eyeliner, you’ll understand the difficulty of achieving a symmetrical look. Luckily, the stage make-up for Cats is deliberately exaggerated and the strong eyeliner and long lower lashes instantly lit up my inner-cat soul.
I was then given the obvious facial features of a cat – the nare (nostril) and philtrum (the line that connects their nose to the upper lip). Given Jennyanydots’ jolly character, my lip-line was emphasised with curls for a cherry smile. After adding whiskers and stripes, I was done!
Overall, the process took around 30 minutes, but for someone going on stage, it would take an hour to complete.
The time and effort it takes is more than worth it, however; the make-up helps to express each character’s personality and make them look and feel more convincing. The make-up process truly transformed me into Jennyanydots, and the purr-fect look let me experience being a cat for once!
Ally Chan, 16, Baptist Lui Ming Choi Secondary School
Edited by Charlotte Ames-Ettridge