Sunday, September 25, 2011

Magic of 'Cats' returns to Seoul

It has been 30 years since “Cats” was first staged and the second Korean production raised its curtain earlier this month at the Charlotte Theater in southern Seoul.

Based on T. S. Eliot’s poems, the musical by Andrew Lloyd Webber portrays the feline world in an affectionate way. Stunning performances by Korean actors whisk the audience to the cats’ world, where they can meet a variety of characters from the narrator Munkustrap and ladies’ cat Rum Tum Tugger to former-actor Gus and cat-burglar duo Mungojerrie and Rumpleteazer.

This year’s production cast three divas, singer Insooni, actresses Park Hae-mi and Hong Ji-min, as Grizabella the former Glamour Cat. Insooni said she is grateful that she has the chance to sing the famed song “Memory.”

“I thought Grizabella just sings ‘Memory,’ but the character has more complexity than that. I have to communicate with other ‘cats’ through eye contact and it was not easy,” Insooni said at a press conference. “‘Cats’ is not just a musical about cats. It is a philosophical work and I think forgiveness, reconciliation and healing is the message behind it.”

Park returns to the stage after appearing in “42nd Street” last year. The charismatic yet delicate image of Park suits the former Glamour Cat like second skin.

“While I mostly play middle-aged woman on television soaps, I think I am still hot and I can give off charm with the greatest on stage, though I am a cat this time,” Park said.

Hong, the youngest of the three, is a hard worker. Known for playing roles such as Mrs. Lovett in “Sweeney Todd” (2007) and Effie White in “Dreamgirls” (2009), she changed her powerful style to suit the desperate, craving character.

“I believe in the power of rehearsing. Actors cannot lie on stage. The harder they rehearse, the better they perform,” Hong said.
She said the life of Grizabella resembles that of a performer. “I could look back on my life as an actress while playing the character.”
The musical offers other outstanding performances by other characters.

Jennyanydots tap dances with cockroaches, while the upper class Bustopher Jones boasts his plump figure and riches. Theater cat Gus reenacts a scene of “Growltiger’s Last Stand,” a major work on him, with fluffy white Persian Griddlebone.

Skimbleshanks the railway cat’s number is another spectacle, as props such as a lampshade, electric fan heads and a handcart brought by each cat makes a train onstage. Another showstopper is Mr. Mistoffelees’ “The Conjuring Turn,” a ballet movement that accompanies Rum Tum Tugger’s singing.

The cats enter the auditorium during the intermission and play with the audience, so isle seats are more popular. The audience can touch or pat them, but remember what Old Deuteronomy said — “respect the cats.”

The musical runs through Dec. 31 and tickets cost from 50,000 to 120,000 won. For more information, visit

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