The first three showings were sold out before the play even opened, so the school knew they had picked the right play for their 80th.  Performing the Broadway hit Cats for their 80th production ever, Director Matthew Miller wanted this to be an especially heartwarming rendition of Cats.  He studied what audiences have loved and hated about the show and Andrew Lloyd Webber’s intentions. When Andrew was young his mother often read to him from a book of poems by T. S. Eliot.  These poems were about, you guessed it…cats. So since these cat poems were read to a child, Matthew decided to create the feeling of a childhood dreamland with lots of big “Jellicle Cats” dancing and singing.

An exquisite, pre-show dinner was prepared and served. The tables were set with silver and linen and elegantly decorated (each table adorned with two gallon bowls with Betas and different colored lights inside). The caterer, Ann Bassett, cooks for the school and is the director of on-site services.  She helped prepare an amazing, fancy, magnificent meal that included some Napa Wines. Dessert was a delicious white kitty with raspberry drizzle. The fourteen high school students who served and cleared were the ultimate of professionalism; all part of the ambience. Even Napa’s Mayor, Jill Techel, found time for this important event, supporting the students at Justin-Siena and student drama everywhere by giving her attention to this and other productions. It all made for an enchanting evening. And it was all set up in the auditorium so that, once the play began, the stylish setting all became, again, part of the perfect ambience. 

The stage was set up with iron beds hanging from the ceiling, a beautiful, wistful moon with draperies to make it just right and, on the opposite side, an Arizona sun gave off a lovely hue.  The school hired a professional stage designer, but the teens did all the work. The students were involved in every aspect of the making of this play. 

To start the show, a magnificent light show of different colors, strobbing and moving all over, transformed the auditorium. These special effects were better than any Fourth of July fireworks. And then the students, who had prepared for four months, came out. The ensemble of cats/kittens played their roles as lazy, or young, or old and decrepit, or feisty, naughty, elegant, mischievous – even popping into the audience to interact with individuals.  All these rambunctious and even sexy cats like Rum Tum Tugger truly made this show a hit. The make-up (designed by the students themselves), wigs and costumes (created by student costume designer Carmen Briwa) were fabulous and very unique. The cast successfully made the audience feel like they were in the midst of a dream.

There were also many individual actors that gave this play that special flair. Grizabella (Ali Owner) gave chills with her singing of Memory. She should be the next American Idol. Her voice was clear, strong, had great tone, and perfect pitch (and she is a sophomore). Ali’s acting was good and she showed the agedness of Grizabella very well. Watch out Broadway. Rum Tum Tugger (Vincent Beard) hammed it up, and all the kitties screamed for him as adoring fans. He had stage presence and personality plus, and his playful arrogance came out in his song perfectly. His voice had many fine distinctions and strengths, but because of some technical difficulties it could be tricky to hear his low notes in the back of the theatre.  Unfortunately that was true with a few other areas of the play where the sound was not loud enough for the characters to be heard throughout the theatre. 

The dancing of one of the kittens (Kellyn Lopes) was spectacular. It is evident she has been dancing since the age of two. Two other cats, Rumpleteazer (Mackenzie Fanfelle) and Mungogerrie (Eric Quast), had some great moves in an exceptional dance number with acrobatics that awed the crowd. Jennyanydots (Lauren Bunnell) did a remarkable tap dance at center stage. Another mind-blowing dance number in the second act was performed by Mr. Mistoffelees (Bridget Huston) who did a jazz routine with pyrotechnics and she/he was absolutely magical just like Mr. Mistoffelees his kitty self.  

Other highlights included Munkaustrap (Merik Mulcahy) who had a fantastic costume but was not showy, consistent in keeping character. His singing was enjoyable and his makeup incredible. Old Deuteronomy (Nicholas Bellomy) was a great tenor that added to his singing numbers. Skimbleshanks (Robert Francis) was a happy, proud railway cat whose “you can play no pranks with Skimbleshanks” character was cute and well done.

The amazing play ended with a boom from cannons that shot confetti everywhere, into the audience and the cats from the stage and behind. All our dreams should end like that.

Performs April 21 - 29, 2007.

Aline Nunes
National Youth Theatre

~ Cast ~

~ The Leaders ~
Munkustrap: Merik Mulcahy
Alonzo: Michael Starr
Demeter: Allison Fizgerald
Bomalurina: Madison Bath
Jennyanydots: Lauren Bunnell
Mr. Mistoffelees: Bridget Huston

~ The Elderly ~
Old Deuteronomy:
Nicholas Bellomy
Asparagus: Jeffrey Gerlomes
Grizabella: Ali Owner
Jellylorum: Fiona Barbour
Bustopher Jones: John Malin

~ The Dangerous ~
Rum Tum Tugger:
Vincent Beard
Mungojerrie: Eric Quast
Steggie: John Malin
Uggi: Mark Marden
Casey: Greg Zobel

~ The Kittens ~
Sillabub: Diana Welsh
Rumpleteazer: Mackenzie Fanfelle
Victoria: Kellyn Lopes
Electra: Lauren Orris

~ The Twins ~
Coricopat: Amanda Biane
Tantomile: Amanda Fagundes

~ The Tribe ~
Admetus: Nicole Hamilton
Carbucketty: Kristen Brotmarkle
Cassandra: Molly McClure
Etcetera: Mary-Katherine Pecha
Georgia: Marika Rothfeld
Gee M Cee: Haili Wells
Plato: Alex Hensley
Quaxo: Chelsea Hollifield
Simbleshanks: Robert Francis
Skylar: Meghan Fitzpatrick

~ Internal Swings ~
Demeter: Marika Rothfeld
Bomalurina: Mackenzie Fanfelle
Munkastrap/Tugger: Robert Francis
Skimbleshanks: John Malin
Rumpleteazer: Kristen Brotmarkle
Mungojerrie: Robert Francis
Alonzo/Macavity: Mark Marden
Jennyanydots: Madison Bath
Old Deuteronomy: Greg Zobel
Bustopher Jones: Mark Marden
Mr. Mistofolees/Jellylorum: Lauren Bunnell
Sillabub: Lauren Orris
Victoria: Molly McClure
Gus: John Malin

Lighting Designer: Tom Durante
Set Design: Eric Steggall
(student) Assistant to the Lighting Designer: Sean Hanna
Theatrical Staging Provided by: Stuart Atkinson
Sound Design: Sound Expressions
(student) Costume Design: Carmen Briwa
Musical Recording: The MT Pit, LLC
C.A.S.T. President: Janine Beard
(student) Assistant Director: Vincent Beard
(student) Stage Manager: Kirsten Rascho
(students) Sound Crew: Kyle Johnson, Nick Richmond
(students) Tech: Crew Jessica Christianson, Wayne DoyleDanielle Carey
(music teacher) Music Direction: Kent Kurrus
(dance teacher ) Choreography: Shawnie Maher
(theatre/yearbook/journalism teacher) Director: Matthew Teague Miller

ALEX H URBAN SCHOLARSHIP (his wife was present and received a standing ovation by some)

Alex H Urban served as a teacher in the Justin-Siena Community from 1982 to 1995. He taught English, Speech, Theatre Arts and was the Theatre Director for the school's productions. In addition, Mr. Urban founded children's theatre programs in Napa, Sonoma, Solano, Vallejo, Marin, Sacramento, Los Angeles, and San Diego. He profoundly benefited the lives of many students at Justin-Siena High School and across the state. In February, Alex H Urban passed away.

In his memory, a scholarship has been created fro current Justin-Siena students involved in the theatre and visual arts programs. This endowment was established by former students of Mr. Urban who hope that others will join in honoring this great educator and in strengthening the arts program at Justin-Siena High School. 

If you are interested in contributing to this fund please contact Beth Fox in the Justin-Siena High School Development office at 707.255.0950 ext 646.


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