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Feline frenzy for three local thespians

Math and Science Academy freshman Elizabeth LeMay, St. Ambrose Catholic School sixth grader Robbie Muniz and Math and Science Academy freshman Marissa Ward all appear in Ashland Productions' production of "Cats" at the Maplewood Performing Arts Center, at the Maplewood Community Center.

Three Woodbury students have gotten in touch with their inner cat.

Math and Science Academy freshmen Elizabeth LeMay and Marissa Ward and St. Ambrose Catholic School sixth grader Robbie Muniz recently appeared in Ashland Production's production of "Cats."

The show was performed at the Maplewood Performing Arts Center, at the Maplewood Community Center.

"Cats," which debuted in 1982, is a musical about a tribe of cats, called the Jellicle, that live in the city. Throughout the show the cats are preparing for the Jellicle Ball, which is where one cat is chosen to be reborn in a new life.

The play is based on T.S Elliot's "Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats" collection of poems.

"It's a weird show," LeMay said. "It's not like any other show because it's based on poems and there really isn't a storyline to it -- it's interesting.

"But, it's a lot of fun."

All three students were previously familiar with Ashland Productions. Muniz had appeared in one of its shows and LeMay and Ward knew of Ashland because MSA frequently partners with them for their productions.

"I just enjoy being in plays and 'Cats' sounded like a really fun opportunity," LeMay said. "There's a lot of different things you can try."

A feline transformation

"Cats" is known for its elaborate makeup and costuming, so it is no surprise the students considered that one of the most challenging aspects.

As part of the ensemble cast, LeMay, Ward and Muniz had to not only develop their own feline personality, but also design their own costumes and apply their own makeup.

"At first it's kind of a pain," Muniz said. "Having to make our own costumes was a lot of work."

In addition to making the physical transformation from human to cat, all three young actors had to get inside the mind of a cat.

For example, cats make sharp movements while gesturing with their necks, Ward said.

Additionally, the actors had to adapt to having their ears on top of their head.

"It was actually really difficult to stay a cat the entire time," Ward said.

LeMay and Ward mainly relied on the suggestions of their choreographer, but Muniz decided to do a little studying on his own time.

While spending two weeks with relatives, Muniz spent considerable time observing their cat.

"It was really weird watching him move and trying to figure out how I could do that," he said.

Forged friendships

During the course of the production, Muniz, LeMay and Ward said they all really enjoyed making new friends with their fellow cats.

"It's a really fun opportunity for me to be with the older kids," Muniz said.

"You almost start feeling like a tribe of cats," Ward said.

All three actors said they intend to be involved with future Ashland productions.

"It's really fun to show off all the work we did to everybody," LeMay said.

"'Cats' has actually encouraged me more to do musicals," Ward said.

Amber Kispert-Smith

Amber Kispert-Smith has been the schools and Afton reporter at the Woodbury Bulletin since 2008. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Minnesota. She previously worked as a reporter for Press Publications in White Bear Lake.

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