CATS Is More Than A Lot of Fur and Purring

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By Bonnie DeShong

There are several stage productions that I love so much I will see over, and over again.  I saw THE WIZ thirty-five times; PIPPIN – fifteen times; STARLIGHT EXPRESS – ten times; A CHORUS LINE- twelve times; RENT – thirteen times; and CATS – fifteen times. Yes, I also have the soundtracks to each which I sing loudly to in my car.

I am so excited to see the production by The North American Tour Company coming to the Oriental Theater beginning July 16th.

Mariah Reives

Recently, I had the chance to speak with one of the performers in this production. Her name is Mariah Reives and she is an ensemble dancer in the tribe of cats.

Mariah, please tell me about your character, Cassandra?

Mariah Reives:  I dance with Magical Mr. Mistoffelees, we have a little duet part. If there’s like a big dance section, I am usually towards the front in the dancer tracks. But she is a sassy cat, is how I like to describe her.

Some people think the production CATS is only a bunch of people dressed up like cats who are singing and dancing, and the song Memories is sung throughout the show. Would you kind to give people the real deal about the story of CATS?

Mariah Reives: Absolutely. So, the story line with CATS is that once a year, our tribe of cats come together at the Jellicle Ball. So, you see the cats coming together, getting to celebrate, and one cat is chosen to be reborn into a new life. It’s kind of like the Tonys. And the nominees of who would be the winner of Best Musical. So, different cats are nominated to be chosen, and in the end one cat is chosen, to be sent to the Heavy Side Lair to have a new life.

And I think you just did that very well, especially the analogy between the award shows and having the Jellicle Ball. You mentioned that you dance with Mr. Mistoffelees, who is one of my favorite characters in the show. Can you tell us a little bit about him?

Mariah Reives: Magical Mr. Mistoffelees is the magical cat, of course. He basically saves the day from Macavity. And through him shining light on our situation, he calls upon Cassandra to help him with a little magic trick, which is really fun.

And we must mention Old Deuteronomy, who is like the old wisdom cat in it all. Do you mind telling us a little bit about him?

Mariah Reives: Old Deuteronomy is played by Brandon Michael Nase, who is incredible. All the cats look up to Old Deuteronomy. He is our leader of the pack. He shows true redemption and allows and teaches the cats within this one night of the Jellicle Ball how we can forgive and look past some of the things that have happened maybe in our past or things that we have done, to then see a new life and see a new character within each of us, especially during his song at the start of Act 2, Moments of Happiness is where we really hear that story. And Brandon Michael Nase sings it beautifully. And yeah, Old Deuteronomy is a classic cat, I would say.

What I love so much about Cats, and I think the reason why I went to see it so many times, is it runs true to life. Yeah, you’re looking at people and talking about different types of cats and things like that, but when you just look at it, you can see that it is the human experience with so much diversity.

Mariah Reives: Exactly. And that’s something that I cherish greatly. Like my grandmother came to see the show when we were in North Carolina, and I tried to explain it to her a little bit, but I told her to just take it in for what it was.  She had never seen Cats before and had never really understood what it was until I told her I had gotten this job. After seeing it she came away with the understanding of forgiveness. You may see yourself in several of these cats. It doesn’t have to be just one. If you’re kind of a troublemaker like Mungo Jerry Rumble Teaser, or you may see yourself within Grizabella. It’s a really, great show that has a lot of deep and underlying meanings that some people can catch onto, which is why it’s an amazing show for all ages. One of my favorite parts of doing the show is looking out and seeing the kids’ faces in the audience. Some of them, their faces just lit up. But then you look right beside them at their parents or grandparents or whoever they came with, they have a similar expression, and we know that our story is being reached to all these different ages and people, which is also really amazing.

Before we go, is dancing something you always wanted to do?

Mariah Reives: Yes. Well, I started out wanting to be in the Alvin Ailey Dance Company. That was like my dream. I tried to go to all their shows if I could. I googled them, I YouTubed them. I was like Alvin Ailey is what I really want to do. But then something told me like, I don’t know, Mariah, I don’t think that’s truly what will make you happy. And so then I was like, okay, I trusted that and I did my research and I found other outlets and came to musical theater. And I am probably the happiest I’ve been in a really long time.

Thank you, Mariah, for taking time out to speak with me. I’m going to be seeing the show for the sixteenth time, how will I recognize you on stage?

Mariah Reives: I will be the all brown cat so you can’t miss me.

Until next time keep your EYE to the sky!!!

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