Excerpts From Another Cat's Diary : Chapter Five : Never Mind The Gap
If you care to read or listen from the beginning click here.
This chapter includes adult language.
There is no gap here. The entry in this chapter is from the day following yesterday’s entry.
Here we go…
Cats : Day TWELVE of Rehearsal
Saturday, June 11th, 2016
49 DAYS TO OPENING
Lengthy Excerpt : Adult Material
9:00 am, Studio 7B, Music Meeting
The company is not called for that. It is a meeting of the minds other than ours. Something must be being brewing....
10:00 am - 10:30 am, Studio 7A, FULL CAST (sans Lewis), Dance & Music Review
Where we may find out what happened from nine to ten in Studio B. Maybe.
First session starts with new music and a visit from Lord Webber—who really doesn’t act like a Lord at all, I just like calling him that. He’s entirely an Andrew. That’s what Kristen calls him, that’s what Andy calls him, and it suits him. As do his print shirts and skinny pants. The athletic shoes, I’m not so sure about, but when I’m his age… I probably will be sure.
Sidebar : Illusive Notes
At this point in my journal it says:
INSERT NOTES FROM SCORE p. 124
I do remember scribbling madly directly into my score about something ALW said or did , and—though I kept every version of every page of script and score as we went along—and—though I’ve laid my hand on no fewer than five different versions of page 124—I cannot for the life of me find one with any writing of any notes. Perhaps I’ll find it before I write the book. I hope so.
Ah, well. We must carry on.
Sidebar Complete / Resume Excerpt :
There’s new music. A new 9a. “Introduction to the Jellicle Ball”. (Pages 123 and that pesky 124 to be precise) It’s basically a false beginning to the ball that gets interrupted by a crash of glass offstage.
The creatives are really working on “Macavity”. Andy mentioned yesterday (or the day before) that one of the first things he and ALW talked about when they were discussing this production was Macavity and wanting to make him a true threat, a real danger. Not just a comic book bugaboo. (My words. Andy actually said, “Not just a…” then posed in a kind of semi-comic book, inflated way. It got his point across. Beautifully.)
Macavity, the lore goes, has… traumatized at least two of the female cats of the tribe.
When I talk to dancers who had been in past productions and they are curious about what’s going on in the room, here, they often ask, in hushed tones,
“Have they told you about the rape?”
Now, Trevor absolutely did not use that word during his Oral History of Cats lecture, but he implied that very bad, very adult things happened. And from the way Demeter and Bombalurina respond to the threat of Macavity’s proximity, one could assume…
But, that’s nowhere in the official literature on Cats. Officially, this is what is said of Demeter and Bomb vis-a-vis Macavity:
Ladylike and mature, Demeter seems uninterested by Rum Tum Tugger but is extremely paranoid of Macavity and his whereabouts. Beneath her dignified shell, she is a tortured soul and always looks to her best friend for help in uncomfortable situations.
Bombalurina is the more self-possessed, flirtatious cat of the two. Although she’s confident, kind and touching, she can also be harsh. This personality is shown when she is angry towards Grizabella, although she eventually grows to respect and welcome her.
These two young adults both share a stirring hatred towards Macavity and his sly, evil personality, shown through their duet ‘Macavity: The Mystery Cat’ and this ultimately creates an even stronger bond between them.
I just looked that up on the official Cats website. That’s as detailed and adult as the party line gets on the matter. Of course right after that quote, about these two cats it says.
So… you know… consider the source.
Working on the new 9a. KB (Kristen Blodgette) at the stick, but ALW almost immediately goes over to the piano. He talks to KB, not to us.
While ALW talks with KB, AB tells the company, sotto voce, that Elaine Paige will be coming for a visit today.
There is a bit more singing (this is all women) of the new 9a and then, very gently, ALW starts to give notes and demonstrate. And he rewrites some rhythms. And takes most of the women off voice, and has just two women carry the pitches, and coaches the effect he wants. It’s a peek into his working mind, which is sometimes hard to spot behind, well, his NAME. He’s a brand. But, he’s also an artist. I like when we get to see the latter part.
Andy gives useful acting coaching, “This is not an observation in real time. You are already under Macavity’s influence. His spell.”
ALW, “Andy is absolutely right! Savor those words, ‘monster,’ depravity.’”
Watching the three of them, Andy, Kristen, and ALW, work on a thing together is so interesting. On a musical continuum, I’d place Andy at the Feel end of the scale, Kristen at the Technique end, and ALW somewhere between them. It’s not a bad arrangement, really. And, to be clear. Andy is not all feeling and Kristen is not all technique. Not by a long shot.
Excerpt : Enter Old Griz
The company is about two minutes into working on a new transition into “Tugger” when a male voice from the door (Not Ira. Nick? ALW? Whomever…) says,
It’s a command disguised as a question.
And there’s Elaine Paige.
And we love her.
Instantly. That’s star quality.
And we express our love the way we do in theatre: APPLAUSE. Adams and Strouse nailed that one.
She graciously accepts the hand and in its wake, she speaks.
“Well, how are you getting on?”
Lock-jawed accent but not entirely upper class. A little smoky, a little dirty… even in bright white pants, white blouse, a shrimp-colored jacket, and a very expensive looking bag on her arm. Just WONDERFUL. I’m usually not that into celebrity, but I am totally taken with her. Pint-sized, yes, but clearly a big star who wears her star-ness easily.
Again, she speaks,
“I remember rehearsing in this building—not for Cats, of course. (Cutting a look over her right shoulder to ALW) I wasn’t brought over for the Broadway company.” She and we laugh.
I like her. I’d love to have pints with her. A fun double-date would be Eleanor and Chrissie and Really-Cute-David-from-RUG (his newly completed nickname and the second line of a very fun limerick.)
She continued, “I was here rehearsing for… oh, Stephen Sondheim… um….”
Some of us shout out “Follies!”
“No, no… um… oh, Nell….”
Someone near her, “Mrs. Lovett. Sweeney Todd.”
“Got there! Yes, well…!”
Bright smiling laugh. God, she looks like a million bucks.
“That,” she continues, laughing at her own memory lapse, “is why I no longer do musical theatre. That, and my knees. Negotiated all those sets I’ve been on.” She gestures to the center of our mock-up set, “Climbing up to the Heavy Side Layer,” She turns to ALW, “Do you still have that?”
ALW deadpans,“We’ve cut it. Didn’t work. It’s not about Grizabella anymore, we’ve rewritten the plot.”
They have a lovely chemistry. I wonder if they actually like each other. Are they really friends? Do they drink together? Has she forgiven him for Betty Buckley? Who knows?
A slight well-now-what awkwardness, more laughter, and then…
“Well, I’ve made enough of a nuisance of myself. Kick your legs up. You all look so strong and so young… and I hate you all.”
With that she turns to meet Andy B. then gives a warm hug to Chrissie (everyone adores Chrissie), Then Elaine Paige shimmers away and Andy starts up “Tugger" rehearsal again.
How are you getting on?
When I go back to my little hiding place behind the set, leaning against the heaters against the eastern windows of 7A I nearly cry. I want to. But for joy. And amazement. And contentment. And—yes—gratitude. Because… Because because because.
And then my cynical brain sharks start circling: why had she come? There must be a reason…
Excerpt : Tugger & Bill the Drummer
Bill Lanham, our drummer. He joined us just a few days into rehearsal and will be our guy straight through and into the run. It’s standard while rehearsing a Broadway musical to have the drummer in the room as much as possible. Playing both what is written or prescribed, and making changes to what is written in response to what the dance staff and performers find during the process. Clancy is also prowling around a lot during staging rehearsals for the same reason. To answer questions about what exists, what is planned, and to respond to what is being created in the room. Andy must trust Clancy an awful lot. And Bill. Andy’s work is so much about the rhythm, about the pulse and pops that happen in, around, and against that pulse. Time is Andy’s medium as much, if not more, than space.
Tugger all morning and into the afternoon. It’s great. Very sexy. Sounds exciting. Can’t wait to hear what Clancy has the band doing with it. I think the folks are going to go nuts for it. Q certainly did.
Excerpt : A Little Gus Time
Finally, after a day of really just sitting in various locations in the room watching the amazing work being done, and feeling just a touch like a eunuch in a house of ill repute, I’m pulled into B to work with William. Oh, boy! Finally gonna get the breakdown for the new Pekes & Pollicles.
William: “Has anyone worked with you at all?”
Me: “Yes. Brian and I sang through it all last week.”
William: “Well, I’m not sure what’s going on with Bustopher…”
Me: “Yes, the cement’s still wet there. I’ll believe Bustopher isn’t cut when we’re in Tony season next year and I’m still in the fat suit. Let’s not look at that”
William: “Let’s sing through Gus.”
Always a pleasure. We do and then I ask for just a little read through of Pekes & Pols. Which was good thinking, because forty-five minutes later I’m pulled into Studio B again, along with Q and Andy Jones, to look at some new line assignments for just that number. And for some table time with Andy B.
Headed down the hall together, Andy B. says as we go,
“Thanks for your patience today.”
Me, “Oh, please. I’m just so happy to be in the room.”
While absolutely true, it still felt like a weenie thing to say.
It’s hard talking to people of whom everyone wants a piece. There’s a weird Show Business variation of the Heisenberg Principal at play in these exchanges that I first really thought about while working with Casey Nicholaw on the Spamalot tour ten years ago and again just last month working on Tuck.
More on that at another time.
Andy talks briefly about the intention of the number, and that it’s carrying some of the specific ideas he had about using Growltiger before it was cut and replaced. By Pekes & Pollicles.
- Gus is still useful to the Tribe
- Interactions with the kittens
- By-play with Old D.
- Gus doesn’t need to be picked for the Heavy Side Layer, he is renewed by the tribe accepting him
Excerpt : A Twinkle And A Smile
During the rehearsal dividing up the Rumpus/Pekes &Polls section, concerning a safety before I go on with a new section of the song, Really Cute David From Rug says,
“This two-bar repeat…”
RCDFR, “Andrew never wanted it.”
Kristen, “Oh, OK—“
RCDFR, “But, Gillie did. For her original staging…”
Kristen, (brow furrowing) “Alright. And Trevor?”
Kristen, “Wait—Do we know what Andy wants. I don’t think we do yet.”
Kristen, reaching for her pencil and peering at her score, “So, now, wait—who wanted it and who didn’t?”
I’ve been staring at RCDFR all this time for two reasons which I have no shame in admitting:
1) he is exceedingly pleasant to look at, and
2) this is the closest I’ve been to this sort of exchange and I know there have been dozens if not hundreds of them going on all around us and I’ve been fascinated with the politics and mechanics of it all.
I pipe up with,
“Well, I’m just going to wait until Kristen throws an arm, and then I’ll go, however many times we go round, I’ll be ready.”
(Oh, you people-pleaser. You suck-up. You actor.)
RCDFR catches my eye and—I can’t help it—I say,
“This must be what a great deal of your job looks like.”
(I am both a flirt and a curious cat.)
His response is the most delightful, twinkly squint of his eyes and a small, closed-lip smile that tells me
1) how difficult his job is,
2) how fucking good he is at it,
3) how much he enjoys it.
All in a half a second.
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