SIDNEY — The musical, “Cats,” opened on Broadway in 1982.
New York Times theater critic Frank Rich called it “a musical that transports the audience into a complete fantasy world.”
Thirty-six years later, the Sidney Dance Company will offer local theater-goers a trip into that fantasy world when it presents the now beloved Andrew Lloyd Weber musical in the Historic Sidney Theatre, 110 E. Poplar St.
Performances are scheduled for 7 p.m., Feb. 15, 16 and 17, and 2 p.m., Feb. 17 and 18.
“I grew up with ‘Cats,’ said director and choreographer Molly McFarland, of Tipp City, who is the associate artistic director of the Sidney Dance Company. “My older sisters sang (the) songs to me when I was growing up.”
McFarland and Sidney Dance Company Artistic Director Sharon Eikenberry decided together to tackle producing the groundbreaking show, which is based on a book of poems, “Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats,” by T.S. Eliot.
“(Sharon’s) wanted to do ‘Cats’ forever and ever and ever,” McFarland said. This year, they felt they had the right people in the company to handle it. Once the decision was made, there was no looking back.
“We’re going to do it, and we’re going to do it big,” she said.
The production has been challenging to performers and creative team, alike. McFarland noted that choreographing for a youth company is more difficult than for adult dancers, because young people don’t automatically know what they’re responsible to do.
The director, a graduate of Oklahoma City University’s renowned dance management program, danced with and choreographed for Innervation Dance Cooperative and Renegade Dance Architects in Chicago before moving to Ohio in 2017.
But the challenges were just about the dance. Lloyd Weber’s music isn’t the easiest to master.
“The music is hard,” McFarland noted.
Two company members, Kiris Fox, 16, of Sidney, and Kate Gothberg, 16, of Piqua, agreed.
“There’s a lot more singing than I thought there was going to be. It’s a lot more demanding than I thought it was going to be,” Gothberg said.
“The singing, acting and dancing all at once (is challenging),” Fox added. “I don’t think I’ve had anything like this role, and it’s such a big role, too.”
She plays Bombalurina. Gothberg has been cast as Demeter. She has danced exclusively ballet with the Dayton Ballet for the last two year. Acting like a cat has forced her into a “different style of dance,” she said.
“I think the choreography is amazing,” Fox, who hopes to become a professional actor, said.
The teens have the most fun, they said, during their “Macavity” number, because, Fox noted, “The song has a sultry side.”
“We improvise the first part of it, so we can do something different every night,” Gothberg said. Her dream is to study biomedical and electrical engineering.
McFarland praised the cast, which includes local adult performers.
“These kids have so much heart. They want to get it right. They’re not just doing a dance someone choreographed. They are living it in their bodies. They are so excited. (They) are so dedicated. They have worked so hard. My excitement channels through them,” she said.
Also in the cast are Emily Short as Admetus, Zoee Steele as Alonzo, Samantha Quinlisk as Bill Bailey, Ryan Gibson as Bustopher Jones, Kara Kellner as Carbuckety, Ella Gover as Cassandra, Reagan Paulus as Coricopat, Leah Zimmerman as Electra, Brianna Brewer as Etcetera, Katie Kogge as George, Anika Arcikauskas as Griddlebone, Maureen Joines as Grizabella, Ryan Gibson as Growltiger and Jon Berry as Gus.
Also McKensie Osborne as Jellylorem, Emma Keykens as Jemima, Lizzy Shaw as Jennyanydots, Tiffany Behr as Macavity, Mariana Kellner as Mister Mistoffelees, Cadence Patterson as Mungojerrie, Kevin Fraiser Jones as Munkustrap, Stephen Bodey as Old Deuteronomy, Logan Shaw as Quaxo, Corey McFarland as Rum Tum Tugger, Faith Clinton as Rumpleteazer, Rylen Abbott as Rumpus Cat, Anthony Kellner as Skimbleshanks; Mallory Godwin as Tantomile, Maggie Bensman as Victor and Aliya Sharp as Victoria.
In the adult chorus are Anne Abbott, Laurel Chalfant, Lillie Clinton, Kelly Curlis, Grace Hockaday and Lauren King.
In the boys ensemble are Gavin Bodey, Kaden Bodey, O’Keefe Cooper and Douglas Welker.
In the girls ensemble are Alyssa Apple, Olivia Breinich, Colleen Chalfant, Libby Hurley, Isabel Rice, Elizabeth Smedley, Mariana Aguilar-Steele, Dublin Cooper, Isabelle Rihm, Summer Sprowl, Nola Welker, Rozlyn Abbott, Lexi Elliott, Ava Fridley, Addilyn Hammaker, Ethne Langston, Emma Poeppelman, Makenzie Cox, MaKaylie Martin and Catherine Smedley.
Performing as kittens will be Alyssa Bodey, Killarney Cooper, Edelle Langston, Hayden Lewis, Mia McFarland, Khloe Pullins, Jocelyn Stewart, Brindle Welker, Elizabeth Wolaver and Audrey Zimmerman.
John Streb will conduct the Cool Cat Orchestra, who are Beth Bailey on flute and piccolo, Tekla Dando and Alan Schmidlap on clarinet and saxophone, Stacy Morris on oboe and English horn, Julie Swank and Alex Blosser on French horn, Johnathan Millhouse and Nathan Streb on trumpet, Bob Schroerluke on trombone, Rick Reis on percussion, Mark Schwarzman on guitar, Franklin Streb on bass, Jane Freytag and Jan Geuy on cello, and Sherry Schaefer, Todd Hostetler and Kathy Streb on keyboard.
The vocal director is Maureen Joines. Scenery and lighting have been designed by McFarland and Eikenberry. Margie Schell has created the costumes and Lisa Whittenberger, the wigs. Claudia Fox coordinated the props and serves as the assistant stage manager. The stage manager is Lacie Shaw.
Advance sale tickets cost $14 for adults, $9 for students. They are available at Sharon’s School of Dance, 104 E. Poplar St.; the offices of Sidney Alive, 109 S. Ohio Ave.; and Ron & Nita’s, 134 S. Main Ave.
Tickets at the door will cost $15 for adults, $10 for students.
Following the Saturday matinee, cast and creative staff will host “Becoming Cats,” a backstage tour and choreography and makeup demonstration. Tickets for “Becoming Cats” cost $5 and are available at Sharon’s School of Dance and at the door.
Reach the writer at 937-538-4824.