Purrfect animal antics in spotlight

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Tuesday July 29 1988  photo:  Phillip BiggsCats rehearsal, Launceston College:

Tuesday July 29 1988 photo: Phillip BiggsCats rehearsal, Launceston College:

Wednesday July 29 1988  photo:  Phillip BiggsCats rehearsal, Launceston College:Ryan Stanton as Deuteronomy

Wednesday July 29 1988 photo: Phillip BiggsCats rehearsal, Launceston College:Ryan Stanton as Deuteronomy

Tuesday July 29 1988  photo:  Phillip BiggsCats rehearsal, Launceston College:

Tuesday July 29 1988 photo: Phillip BiggsCats rehearsal, Launceston College:

Wednesday July 29 1988  photo:  Phillip BiggsCats rehearsal, Launceston College:Alexandra Frilingos and Fraser O'Byrne

Wednesday July 29 1988 photo: Phillip BiggsCats rehearsal, Launceston College:Alexandra Frilingos and Fraser O'Byrne

SO CUTE, simply irresistible.

Thanks to the magic of make-up and costume, within an hour 89 youngsters aged between 6 and 17 have transformed into the most adorable cats.

Their whiskers twitch, tails swish and hands and feet become paws that let them spring, leap and creep on cue.

Before my eyes, 89 boys and girls have become a tribe of Jellicle cats and kittens, just as Andrew Lloyd Webber envisaged when his blockbuster musical Cats first captured the world's imagination on London's West End in 1981.

This is the second dress rehearsal for the PCYC Youth Theatre cast, who have the honour of premiering Cats in Tasmania.

Following on from successful seasons with Oklahoma! in 2012 and The Music Man last year, director Danny Gibson is optimistic of a warm audience response again this year.

It would be fair to assume it's no easy task rallying 89 children of such diverse ages, and Gibson confides that Cats has proven to be the biggest undertaking yet for the youth group.

But Gibson is encouraging to all of his students and mutual respect is evident throughout.

Gibson is also grateful for his "amazing band of loyal helpers", many of whom are proud parents who volunteer their time to make costumes and build sets - excited that their children have such an opportunity to perform on the big stage.

Three matinee performances of Cats next week are already sold out.

Alexandria Frilingos, who plays Mungojerrie in this production, is one student who has grown up with the PCYC.

This is her ninth year with the youth group.

Loving the "relaxed, supportive environment" and the chance to make different friends than school, Alexandria plans to stay on board next year too.

"It's so much fun, and while [Disney's] Beauty and the Beast has probably been my favourite production, I really like the fact this is a different style of show," she says.

"There is no dialogue - it is all about acting, music and song."

Enjoying just his second year with the PCYC is seven-year-old Fraser O'Byrne, who plays the frail theatre cat, Gus, after making his debut in The Music Man last year.

"It's fun," agrees Fraser, his smile making his painted whiskers twitch. So cute.

Tuesday July 29 1988  photo:  Phillip BiggsCats rehearsal, Launceston College:Hannah Bailey

Tuesday July 29 1988 photo: Phillip BiggsCats rehearsal, Launceston College:Hannah Bailey

With that Gibson commands full attention by randomly asking members of the cast what things he as director would be looking for in this dress rehearsal.

Answers come thick and fast: "Loud voices, articulation, being cats all the time, happy cats, energetic cats".

All answers are right, no one with their hand up is overlooked.

With that Gibson counts down, the music starts and "cool cats, mystical cats, hysterical cats and metaphysical cats" bring alive a 90-minute adaptation of T.S. Eliot's Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats.

When the stage musical Cats, written by Andrew Lloyd Webber and produced by Cameron Mackintosh, premiered on London's West End in 1981 it won a Laurence Olivier Award and Tony Award for best musical two years later.

It went on to be the second longest running show on West End, surpassed only by Les Miserables.

It also enjoyed a long Broadway season, surpassed only by Phantom of the Opera.

Tuesday July 29 1988  photo:  Phillip BiggsCats rehearsal, Launceston College:

Tuesday July 29 1988 photo: Phillip BiggsCats rehearsal, Launceston College:

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