Jellicle Cats, Come Out Tonight!

Jellicle Cats, Come Out Tonight!

Musical calls fans back to magical world


Actor Brandon Michael Nase had to leave his 6-month-old son, Ellis, and 2-year-old daughter, Anaya, home with wife Lauren so he could play Old Deuteronomy on the North American tour of “Cats.” But Anaya knows exactly where Daddy is and what he’s doing.

The first time he tried on his costume, Nase relates happily, he sent a photo to Lauren and asked her to show it to their daughter. “Who is that?” Lauren asked Anaya. As Nase tells it, Anaya cocked her head, studied the photo and said, “Dada.” “What is Dada?” she asked then. Anaya’s answer: “Meow.”

“Yeah, I know I’m a cat,” Nase says wonderingly. “But I don’t look anything like a 2-year-old’s idea of a cat!”

Having played a wide range of roles — and armed with a Master of Music degree in vocal performance/musical theater from New York University — Nase did not aspire to be a “Cats” cat. In fact, it wasn’t a show that was even on his radar. He was performing in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “Evita” in Florida when he became friends with Sharrod Williams, the actor who played Pouncival in the 2016 Broadway revival — the one on which this tour is based. Williams helped convince him Old Deuteronomy was an “iconic” role for an African-American singer and actor — especially one with the baritone-tenor range Nase has — and he admits he’s found the role much more compelling than he might have imagined.

“I’m the only person in the cast who is actually a father, who has kids, and I feel like Old Deuteronomy is kind of the dad of the tribe,” Nase muses. “The deeper meaning for him is to show the other cats the error of their ways in shunning Grizabella — to show them without chastising them that you cast this cat out and you judged her. Would you want the same thing done to you? She is one of us. And we have to stick together. We are a tribe.

“He wants them to learn all of that, not from him saying it but showing it — showing them there’s a better and more loving way to be.”

Adapted by Andrew Lloyd Webber from T.S. Eliot’s 1939 “Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats,” the musical premiered at the New London Theatre on London’s West End in 1981 and played for 21 years and almost 9,000 performances. In 1983, it opened on Broadway and ran for 18 years, winning seven Tonys including Best Musical.

Since then, “Cats” has been presented in more than 30 countries, translated into 15 languages and been seen by more than 73 million people worldwide. It’s that multi-generational nostalgia that made the Broadway revival such a hit, Nase says. It’s the theatergoers who loved it as children coming back to share it with their children — or grandchildren. What pleases Nase, though, is that he thinks the younger audiences “grasp what the story is about more than we jaded adults do.”

The pivotal question in “Cats,” Nase says, is really ‘Why are they being mean to Grizabella?”

“Kids latch on to that moment when they accept her, and remember that feeling, and they carry it — and that moment of rebirth at the end — with them for the rest of their lives,” he says.

At the heart of Nase’s performance, he says, is the hope that this “story of redemption” will resonate with 2019 audiences deeply and profoundly.

“Yes, I am dressed as a gigantic, furry cat, but I hope they can see past that to the love and desire for peace in Old Deuteronomy’s eyes and in his spirit,” he says. “That’s my deepest desire for us as human beings — a return to unity, peace and a love that surpasses political beliefs — just the simple love of human beings for each other. We all have intrinsic worth. That should give us reason enough to be kind to each other.”




WHEN — 1:30 & 7 p.m. May 30; 8 p.m. May 31; 2 & 8 p.m. June 1; 2 p.m. June 2

WHERE — Walton Arts Center in Fayetteville

COST — $51 & up

INFO — 443-5600

Categories: Theater