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Hello, Kitty 

by Michael Bowen

In the national touring production of Cats (at the Opera House, Jan. 2-4), Anne Brummel plays the faded glamour cat, Grizabella. Disdainful of such sophomoric questions as, for example, whether the cast prefers Friskies or Meow Mix, we opted for a more dignified line of questioning.

So what's the worst joke you've heard involving scratching posts, catnip or a litter box?

Someone on a local crew will ask if we have enough cat food. We constantly get jokes like "It's purr-fect," with the p-u-r-r. We get that a lot. But the worst joke of all is when we come out at the beginning of the show, and we do this thing called "Green Eyes" -- we come out into the audience, and we have green eyes that light up, and it's dark, and sometimes people hiss, and they bark.


And they apparently think that's funny or something. That's by far the worst joke of all. I mean, they're actually hissing and barking at us.

[loud laughter] I'm sorry.

No, that's OK.

How long have you been on this tour?

Five months.

When you've played a cat for a long time, do you suddenly discover that you've been absentmindedly grooming yourself with your tongue?

No, but my boyfriend sometimes does that.

[really loud laughter]

But you do tend to realize that your reactions are sometimes cat-like. I noticed that sometimes -- there's a difference if you're licking your lips as a human and licking your lips as a cat. And onstage, when you want to go sing a song, it's very common to want to whet your palate. I've noticed that I lick my lips more like a cat in real life, with, like, a wide-open mouth ... and it's very bad, and I do it and I don't know that I do it, and then I catch myself afterwards, and I'm a little embarrassed.

Do people come to your show dressed as cats?

Some are very elaborate, especially with young kids -- their parents make them very elaborate costumes and paint their faces, and you would think they got costumes from a former cast member, they're so good. They're very creative. At first, I was like, 'Oh, people really do get dressed up as cats and come to the show.' It's a little strange to me. It's a bit less strange when it's a small child, as opposed to an adult.

Are these people more pathetic or less pathetic than Trekkies?

I think ours are definitely less strange, because Trekkie fans have conventions. And I have not yet heard of a Cats convention.

Please comment on the following real-life situation: There's a woman in Escondido, Calif., who has seven boxes of Cats memorabilia, a copy of the Cats soundtrack by the 1986 Japanese cast, and a ticket stub collection from each of the 35 performances she has seen.

These people are the reason that the show has been running for nearly 23 years.

Back in 1998, The Onion, in an article entitled "Touring Company of Cats Prepares for Yet Another Day in the Goddamn Catsuits," refers to one cast member this way: "Stephanie Watrous, who has played Jennyanydots for eight excruciating years, said, 'Each day, I pray for sweet release from the hideous quasi-feline mockery that my life has become. Where are we today? Spokane?' "

Sometimes you dread having to put on the whole makeup, because it sort of is a process. But you know, that's our typical day at work, whereas some people might dread going to their computer job or something. So 'praying for sweet release' has not happened just yet. But call me back sometime in April, and we'll see.

Quick now, name the last six stops on the tour.

Oh, that's not fair. Oh, God, um ... [long pause]. Rapid City, South Dakota? Were we in Casper, Wyoming? Where did we go before Wyoming? Oh, Kansas -- Hays, Kansas, and Manhattan, Kansas, and Saleena or Salina, Kansas. That's all you're gonna get out of me.

As you know, your big 11 o'clock song, "Memory," has been recorded more than 150 times. Whose version do you prefer -- Barbra Streisand's, Johnny Mathis', Barry Manilow's or Liberace's?

I've heard Barbra Streisand's version, I think a long time ago. The others' I haven't heard, but I can probably say that Liberace's would be on the bottom of the list.

OK, you and your fellow actors corner the cast of Starlight Express in a dark alley. What happens next?

The best '80s dance party you have ever seen. Between all the leg warmers and the roller skates, it'd be better than Footloose. I don't know that either one of our casts is tough enough to get into a fight, but we can definitely dance.

Cats first opened in London in May 1981. Is there anybody in the cast who was born since then?

We have a very young cast, and Cats is a great show for that, because you don't lose any of the integrity of the show or of a good role because the age isn't quite what you think it is. The youngest is, I believe, 20, 19? ... that's the girl who plays Sillibub, who sings "Memory" with me a little bit.

I just think of people who have never lived in a world without Cats.

No such thing.

Publication date: 12/25/03

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