The Akron Civic Theatre has landed a rare Broadway tour — Cats — for one performance at 7:30 p.m. Monday. The production is billed as the only one in North America sanctioned by composer Andrew Lloyd Webber.
“It’s the first time it’s ever been performed at the Civic, ever,” Executive Director Howard Parr said.
The opportunity came about quickly, with the non-Equity tour contacting Parr on April 18 about the opening in its schedule. A contract was finalized the next day and the show went on sale the day after that.
Parr said he wants touring productions to know that the Civic is quick on its feet and can handle tours similar to those at the University of Akron’s E.J. Thomas Hall, which is the usual Broadway house in Akron: “We are a little bit smaller than E.J. is backstage, but we are big enough for the show. They’re figuring it out.
“It’s an iconic musical. We don’t often have the opportunity to do significant, major Broadway shows here. We do a lot of community-based shows, which is great.”
The tour hasn’t played in Akron since 2007. The musical celebrated its 30th anniversary May 11, 2011, and remains the longest continuously touring Broadway musical in history.
Tickets for the Akron show are $32-$52, with a $10 discount for ages 16 or younger. Call 330-253-2488 or see www.akroncivic.com.
Melissa Grohowski, a Toledo-area native and Wright State University graduate, joined the tour in late 2010 as a swing and now portrays Grizabella, the Glamour Cat. She reports that the tour features the famed musical’s original choreography and direction, directed by Richard Stafford, who played Skimbleshanks on Broadway.
She’s looking forward to seeing family from Toledo and Cleveland at the Akron show, which is the first time the tour has played in Ohio this year.
“Cats is actually my favorite musical. It was one of the first musicals that my parents took me to,” the 26-year-old actress said. “To be able to portray the role [of Grizabella], I pinch myself a lot, because it’s such a blessing.
“I put her on a pedestal, and she’s such a beautiful character, inside and out,” Grohowski said of the aged cat.
In this story, based on the 1939 T.S. Eliot poem Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats, life has beaten Grizabella down and she tries to return to the Jellicle Cats tribe, which shuns her.
Grohowski, who sings the show’s most famous tune, Memory, is well aware of all the divas before her who have etched the song into pop culture, including Elaine Page and Betty Buckley of the original London and Broadway casts, and pop stars Celine Dion and Barbra Streisand.
“It’s terrifying because everyone knows that song. But in the moment, when I’m onstage, all I have to think about is this is her last chance for her to be accepted back into the tribe,” the actress said of Grizabella.
Grohowski gets to enjoy a huge emotional moment every night when the cat Victoria finally touches Grizabella and accepts her: “I actually get the chills almost every night, and it never gets old.”
The actress said audiences of all ages love the show’s elaborate costumes, dance and story, as well as its message about acceptance and the love of family.
The current tour offers another bonus: It has brought back “psychic twins” Coricopat and Tantomile, who move as one and haven’t been seen since the Broadway production.
The Hudson Players are heading into their second weekend of performances of the lush musical The Secret Garden. The show at Barlow Community Center, 41 S. Oviatt St., stars youngsters Natalie Welch as Mary Lennox, Dan Hoy as Dickon and Tommy Evans as Colin Craven; with Greg Emanuelson as Archibald Craven, Cassandra Capocci as Martha and Judith Overcash as Lily.
The enchanting story for the children’s classic is set in 1906 England, where Archibald Craven yearns for his late wife and his crippled son, Colin, lives in neglect and isolation. Spoiled young orphan Mary Lennox arrives and soon discovers a secret walled garden, whose magic changes their lives. The Tony Award-winning musical is based on the novel by Frances Hodgson Burnett.
The show is directed by Claudia Lillibridge, with musical direction by Roger Clary and choreography by Michelle Hujar. Cost is $14. Dinner and show packages at Hudson’s Restaurant are offered for $62 per couple. Call 330-655-8522 for information. Show-only tickets may be ordered at www.hudson players.com. The musical runs through May 19, with shows at 8 p.m. Fridays-Saturdays and a matinee at 2 p.m. May 13.
• Reach Out and Dance will premiere Magic at the Museum, about a young student who travels to an art museum with his class and wanders off to find artwork coming to life, at 1 p.m. Friday at Firestone High School. The performance will feature fourth- and fifth-graders from Forest Hill, Case and Portage Path elementary schools. Works by M.C. Escher, Georgia O’Keefe, Leonardo DaVinci, Norman Rockwell and more will come to life in the colorful celebration of visual art.
R.O.A.D. is an arts education community outreach program of the Cuyahoga Valley Youth Ballet. The performance is free. See www.cvyb.org for information.
• The Consulate of Italy in Detroit and the Cleveland Museum of Art will co-sponsor the Ohio Philharmonic Orchestra in concerts this weekend featuring pianist Antonio Pompa-Baldi, a Steinway artist who is a piano professor at the Cleveland Institute of Music. The Italian pianist came to the United States in 1999, where he won the Cleveland International Piano Competition. He has since made Cleveland his home.
The concert will be conducted by Domenico Boyagian, also of Italy. The concert will include Grieg’s Piano Concerto in A minor as well as his Holberg Suite; and Ravel’s Le Tombeau de Couperin.
Concerts will be at 7:30 p.m. Friday and 2 p.m. Saturday in the Gartner Auditorium at the Cleveland Museum of Art. Tickets are $30-$36, with a $1 discount for museum members. See www.eventbrite.com or call 216-229-4444 for tickets.
Arts writer Kerry Clawson may be reached at 330-996-3527 or firstname.lastname@example.org.