OAKLAND -- The musical "CATS" doesn't just appear on the Woodminster stage in the Oakland hills, it pounces, says show director Joel Schlader.
"It's a spectacle of difficult dancing, complicated singing and incredible costumes," said Schlader. "It was such a long-running production on Broadway, and anyone could be awed by it -- especially by the dancing. It's like a symphony of performance."
The production will run from Sept. 6-16 as part of Producers Associates' Woodminster Summer Musicals. It's the final show of three being staged this summer in the Oakland hills, and the first time that "CATS" is being done at the Woodminster Amphitheater.
"We've never done it before, because it's such a hard show to dance," explained Schlader, an Alameda resident. "You have to have lots of time to choreograph it, which is why we started our work on it two weeks early. It's a very demanding show to put on."
Andrew Lloyd Webber's "CATS" is loosely based on a collection of poems written by T.S. Eliot. It ran for 21 years in London and 18 on Broadway.
Jody Jaron has done the choreography for the Woodminster production, with music direction by Michael Horsley. Original cat costumes for the musical were designed and built by Christine Weiland, a longtime resident of Montclair.
"This project is right up my alley, since I love doing something off beat," said Weiland, who is taking classes at Apparel Arts in San Francisco. "I had to make
Like Schlader, Weiland says the results of working on "CATS" seem to speak for themselves. "It's great to watch people on stage and others get so excited as the show comes together," she explained. "Everyone involved in the design of the show has their own creative, specific perspective, and this makes it so fresh and special."
She began working on the costumes about six months ago and has benefited from the help of family and friends. "The cats' heads take six hours to make," said Schlader, "and they are made by hand with lots of yarn put into them. The outfits are spray-painted leotards, with a different style for each cast member."
In addition to the elaborate costumes, the performers in "CATS" have to rely on demanding movements to make their characters come to life on stage. "It's pure acting," said Schlader. "They have to do all of the performing with their body and tell the story with catlike movements."
From the first second they appear on stage, the performers have to move entirely like felines. "They have to take on all the mannerisms of a cat and perform as these creatures at all times," the director explained. "It's very difficult."
This makes the show tough for performers but mesmerizing for the audience, he says, young and old alike. "I'm in awe of the dancers on stage and what they're putting into this show. They're like Olympic athletes."
Tickets can be bought at www.woodminster.com or by calling 510-418-8523. There are many free tickets for kids, $12 tickets for everyone on Sept. 6 and other discounts available, organizers say.