Podcast: Chatting With Mike Abrams On ‘The Wrong Cat Died’

Hit play to hear my interview with the fun podcast "The Wrong Cat Died"

Hit play to hear my interview with the fun podcast "The Wrong Cat Died"

Grizabella was the wrong cat to die.

After seeing CATS the Musical for the first time in July of 2016, podcast host Mike Abrams was filled with a whirlwind of emotions. He was amused, confused, and a little angry.

Almost exactly three years later when the 2019 CATS movie trailer came out, Mike had enough. It was time to speak his truth – Grizabella was the wrong Cat to Die at the Jellicle Ball.

In this podcast series, Mike interviews CATS cast members, CATS superfans, CATS haters, and explores the backstories of the Jellicle characters all to make a case for why they were more worthy to ascend to the Heavyside Layer than Grizabella.

I’ve written in the past that in 1986 my life was changed when I was cast as the ‘Magical Mr. Mistoffelees’ in a brand new National Touring company of CATS.

To give some perspective, CATS was, in terms of popularity, the Hamilton of its day. All over America, everywhere we went, we were sold out months before we arrived.

Me back in 1986 as ‘the Magical Mr. Mistoffelees’

Fast forward to Fall 2020, my cast reunited in a virtual event performing material from the show to raise money for The Actors Fund. At the time, as “the journalist” of the group, folks asked if I would try and help with the publicity aspect.

At the time, I came across Mike’s very entertaining podcast where, initially, he opined on which cat actually should have/deserved to go to the Heaviside Layer at the end of the show.

I booked three of my cast mates to go on the podcast and share, not only about our event, but their time ‘back in the day.’  Mike had interviewed cats from the Broadway revival, but no one from the original days in the 1980s.

Listening to his character by character in the beginning episodes, I was charmed to find that my character was – in his opinion – the cat that really deserved that next “Jellicle” life.

Some weeks ago, he invited me to come on the show and chat. I believe I’m the first ‘Mistoffelees’ to be interviewed on the show, which is quite the honor.

This was much fun to revisit the

Hit the play button below or listen wherever you get your podcasts – Apple Podcasts, Pandora, Spotify, and Stitcher.

Podcast: CATS Chat With Leslie Ellis & Matt Zarley

Matt Zarley and Leslie Ellis

As a young actor, my first big break was being cast as the ‘Magical Mr. Mistoffelees’ in a brand new national touring company of the blockbuster Broadway musical CATS.

While I was ‘living a dream’ over those years back in the 1980s, a nightmare called HIV/AIDS was taking thousands of lives from us. As a company, we wanted to do ‘something.’

So in 1987, we organized one of the first large-scale benefits performances by a touring company to help those affected by HIV. Amazingly, we raised over $36K in one night.

Fast forward to today, and another viral pandemic is here. A few months ago, one of my former CATS castmates reached out to say, “Anyone want to do another fundraiser?”

And so, we did.

 

“With Love, Now and Forever! Cats4CovidRelief” premiered on October 23 and will be available until October 28. At this writing, combining donations at Broadway Cares and YouTube, we’ve raised over $20,000 and counting

Today, I’m talking to two of my closest CATS castmates, Grammy Award-winner Leslie Ellis and two-time OutMusic Award-winner Matt Zarley, about this recent company reunion.

Hit the play button to hear us chat on this recent collaboration, reminisce about life on the road as young actors, and laugh a bit about the life-changing experience that was CATS.

While our streaming event is scheduled to be removed from Broadway Cares website at the end of October 28, the video is still up at this writing on BC/EFA’s YouTube channel on an unlisted page here.

Plus, you can see Matt’s gorgeous segment featuring Leslie singing “Memory” here.

Join Me For ‘Stars In The House’ And ‘With Love, Now And Forever!’

Update: At the same time as our “With Love, Now and Forever: Cats4CovidRelief” event premiere, I joined some of my CATS castmates (Matt Zarley, JoAnn Hunter, Christine Toy Johnson, Leslie Ellis, Jonathan Cerullo) on the awesome Stars in the House at 8 pm ET/5 pm PT to talk about the fundraising event and days of CATS gone by.

You can watch the episode below. We had soooo much fun with Seth and James! We all join around the 10:30 mark.


Longtime readers of The Randy Report know that, in another life, I was an actor on Broadway and in national touring companies. My first big break in New York City was being cast in a brand-new national company of the mega-blockbuster musical, CATS, as the ‘Magical Mr. Mistoffelees.’

Now, nearly 35 years after our first performance, the company of CATS (National 3) has reunited for a very special virtual theatrical event, WITH LOVE, NOW AND FOREVER! CATS4COVIDRELIEF, a fundraiser for the Broadway Cares Covid-19 Emergency Assistance Fund, which supports The Actors Fund. This special event will premiere tonight, October 23 at 8 PM ET / 5PM PST at broadwaycares.org/catsbenefit and will be available through October 27.

More than 30 former cast members from CATS National 3 have joined forces to collaborate and create an upbeat, inspiring celebration of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s international musical phenomenon, CATS.

Donations made during the stream will help those onstage and behind the scenes get health care, emergency financial assistance and counseling during the pandemic and work stoppage. Joining the company for the musical celebration are hosts Brian Stokes Mitchell, Chairman of the Board for The Actors Fund, and Tom Viola, Executive Director of Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS.

Me back in 1986 as ‘the Magical Mr. Mistoffelees’

When Tony Award-winning director/choreographer Michael Bennett passed away in 1987 from HIV/AIDS, this tribe of ‘Jellicle Cats’ heard the call to action and created a one-night-only event that celebrated the career of Bennett titled, One Singular Sensation: A Tribute To Michael Bennett.

In a time before Broadway Cares or Equity Fights AIDS, CATS National 3 raised nearly $40,000 in one amazing, not-to-be-forgotten night for the Kansas City Good Samaritan Project that specifically helped those battling HIV/AIDS.

The video event was conceived and produced by award-winning director Jonathan Cerullo (The Boys from Syracuse, Legs Diamond Broadway Reunion), scripted by Christine Toy Johnson (Come From Away, Bombay Dreams), Broadway choreographer JoAnn M. Hunter (Disaster!, School of Rock), award-winning choreographer James Walski (Trip of Love), and entrepreneur Austin Jetton.

In addition, the show’s music team reunites to conduct us through the event, Jay Alger, Edward G. Robinson,  Jack Gaughan, and David Geist.  And rounding out the team as Sound Editor is Tony Award-winner Brian Ronan (Book of Mormon, Beautiful – The Carole King Musical).

This special reunion will feature a contemporary take on the opening number, “Jellicle Songs for Jellicle Cats,” testimonials of hope from cast members of how they were helped by The Actors Fund, and a spectacular, new performance of the show-stopping “Memory” performed by Grammy Award-winner Leslie Ellis (‘Grizabella’) and award-winning playwright/actress, Christine Toy Johnson (’Sillabub’). There will also be a fun Halloween surprise with “The Naming of Cats.”

“In this ‘new normal’ of undertaking theater, artists must remain relevant through digital technologies to continually engage with our audiences and tell our stories,” says Cerullo, who is producing and directing the event through his company, JSCTheatricals. “Our ‘CATS4COVIDRELIEF’ benefit is the realization of exploring this new platform for entertainment in today’s pandemic environment.”

The motivation behind this special collaboration is community.  The cast and creative team have created a performance that combines today’s technology – managed by top professionals in their field – music and theatre to bring to you an exciting and eclectic program.

“In revisiting my love affair with ‘Memory’ for this benefit, I was surprised and humbled by how powerful collaborating with my former castmates combined with the emotion of the current global unrest and social injustice would have on me,” says Leslie Ellis, who played Grizabella.  “I am deeply moved to have been a part of this benefit that aims to raise money and awareness to help everyone in our community who is in need right now.”

CATS was the biggest deal back in its day – if you had CATS on your resume, you’d made it,” says JoAnn M. Hunter, who played Victoria. “When Broadway director/choreographer Michael Bennett died of AIDS in 1987, our cast came together as a family – a community – to help those impacted by the AIDS epidemic. And here we are again, thirty-plus years later, doing our part to help with this pandemic.”

Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS launched its COVID-19 Emergency Assistance Fund on March 17, just days after Broadway theaters and national tours shut down because of the coronavirus. The special fund, administered by The Actors Fund, continues to assist those in the entertainment community who are facing health care crises and other immediate needs in the wake of the ongoing pandemic.

Please join me for this special celebration of CATS and community – WITH LOVE, NOW AND FOREVER! CATS4COVIDRELIEF – a fundraiser for the Broadway Cares COVID-19 Emergency Assistance Fund supporting The Actors Fund on Friday, October 23 at 8 PM ET / 5 PM PST. If you could see your way to making a donation of any amount – what we do together makes a difference! – please visit broadwaycares.org/catsbenefit.

About CATS National 3:
In 1986, a talented group of theater artists were hand-picked to be a part of an amazing new ‘Jellicle’ tribe known as CATS National 3. As the first national touring company of the blockbuster Broadway musical to be presented in major U.S. cities like Atlanta, Dallas, Houston, St. Louis, Louisville, Miami, Phoenix (and many more), CATS National 3 broke box office records, received rave reviews, and was the first CATS company to play outdoor theaters due to the high demand for tickets. Then, as now, CATS National 3 stepped up to help during a worldwide pandemic.

In the 1980s, it was the beginning of the HIV/AIDS crisis. When Tony Award-winning director/choreographer Michael Bennett passed away in 1987 from HIV/AIDS, this tribe of ‘Jellicle Cats’ heard the call to action and created a one-night-only event that celebrated the career of Bennett titled, One Singular Sensation: A Tribute To Michael Bennett.  In a time before Broadway Cares or Equity Fights AIDS, CATS National 3 raised nearly $40,000 in one night for the Kansas City Good Samaritan Project that specifically helped those battling the then “mysterious” HIV/AIDS virus.

Participating members of CATS National 3: Mark Agnes, Jay Alger, Deborah Geneviere Athens, Joanna Beck, Anthony Vincent Bova, Lisa Dawn Cave, Jonathan Cerullo, Leslie Ellis, Robert Barry Fleming, Jack Gaughan, David Geist, Adrea Gibbs, JoAnn Hunter, Austin Jetton, Christine Toy Johnson, Aja Kane, BK Kennelly, Deidre Lang, Brian Liddicoat, Charmaine Liddicoat, Karen Longwell, Kari Nicolaisen, Bill Nolte, Donna Pompei, Cathy Sue Pyles, Rachelle Rak, Arminae Reames, Edward G. Robinson, Randy Slovacek, Julie Stiel, Beth Swearingen, Fred Tallaksen, Amiee Turner, James Walski, Matt Zarley.

The cast of CATS National 3 today

About Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS:
Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS 
is one of the nation’s leading industry-based, nonprofit AIDS fundraising and grant-making organizations. By drawing upon the talents, resources, and generosity of the American theater community, since 1988 Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS has raised more than $300 million for essential services for people with HIV/AIDS, COVID-19 and other critical illnesses across the United States.

Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS is the major supporter of the social service programs at The Actors Fund, including the HIV/AIDS Initiative, the Phyllis Newman Women’s Health Initiative and the Samuel J. Friedman Health Center for the Performing Arts. Broadway Cares also awards annual grants to more than 450 AIDS and family service organizations in all 50 states, Puerto Rico and Washington, D.C., providing lifesaving medication, healthy meals, counseling and emergency assistance.

News Round-Up: August 4, 2020

Me and Snoopy (photo: Denise Truscello)

Some news items you might have missed:

Snoop Watch:  Just a quick check-in to say Snoopy (the short one above) is doing great settling in with Michael and me. For those interested in #BeagleLife, most of my posts about Snoopy will be on Instagram here. Thanks to Denise Truscello for the pic and to everyone for all the messages of support about our new 14-year-old addition 🙂

Instinct Magazine: The Lifetime TV channel has announced that it will release its first-ever holiday film with a same-sex romance as the central storyline. The upcoming tv movie is titled The Christmas Set-Up and follows two former high school friends who get (surprise!) ‘set-up’ by one’s mother during holidays at home.

Out Music: Acclaimed singer and songwriter VINCINT recently released “Hard 2 Forget,” the eagerly awaited follow-up to his acclaimed debut EP, The Feeling.

The out artist has received raves from the media like this from Eonline: “VINCINT has kept us captivated with his sumptuous synth-pop sound and his outrageous vocals. As masterful with a full-throated belt as he is slipping into a soft falsetto, his is a voice.”

WOW: Former Grey’s Anatomy actor Isaiah Washington (who was fired from the show for using a homophobic slur) came out to FoxNews as a Trump supporter. In April, the actor tweeted he had left the Democratic party.

Sunday Times: Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber on why the now-infamous CATS movie turned out the way it did – “The problem with the film was that [director] Tom Hooper decided that he didn’t want anybody involved in it who was involved in the original show. The whole thing was ridiculous.”

CNN: After repeatedly seeking to discredit mail-in voting, Donald Trump on Tuesday claimed Florida’s election system is “safe and secure” and encouraged Floridians to vote by mail.

Twitter Responds To CATS Movie Trailer

(screen capture via CATS trailer/Youtube)

Yesterday I shared the newly-unveiled trailer for the upcoming film adaptation of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s hit musical, CATS, due out at Christmas.

Having been a part of the CATS family back in the 1980s, as a cast member of the original national touring companies, I have a personal fondness for the show.

And as a creative person, I knew the movie might take a different direction here and there, and I’m one to keep an open mind.

That said, apparently the trailer didn’t sit all that well with some folks on the interwebs, and they made themselves known on Twitter.

I’ll say up front – let’s not bash the movie before we see it. But, some of these tweets are pretty funny.

Take a look:

And, of course, that burning question:

Trailer: CATS The Movie

Jennifer Hudson as ‘Grizabella’ in CATS

The trailer for the upcoming live-action movie of CATS the musical has landed.

I think it has some amazing visuals going on, although the anthropomorphic/naked cat look will take a bit of getting used to.

Along the way, there looks to be some fantastic casting with Rebel Wilson as ‘Jennyanydots,’ Sir Ian McKellen as ‘Gus the theater cat,’ Dame Judi Dench as ‘Deuteronomy,’ and James Corden as ‘Bustopher Jones.’

Oh, and Oscar winner Jennifer Hudson belts out the show’s hit tune, “Memory,” throughout.

Judi Dench in CATS

In theaters this Christmas. Take a look below.

Longtime readers of The Randy Report may recall being cast in the national touring company of CATS back in the mid-80s was my first big gig after moving to New York City.

Ah yes, ‘the magical Mr. Mistoffelees’…

Go Behind-The-Scenes Of The Upcoming CATS Movie

Universal Pictures shares a look inside the upcoming Cats movie and announces that the first trailer will be released on Friday.

Cats stars James Corden, Judi Dench, Jason Derulo, Idris Elba, Jennifer Hudson, Ian McKellen, Taylor Swift, Rebel Wilson and introduces Royal Ballet principal dancer Francesca Hayward in her feature film debut.

Featuring a world-class cast of dancers under the guidance of Tony-winning choreographer Andy Blankenbuehler (Hamilton, In the Heights), the film reimagines the musical for a new generation with spectacular production design, state-of-the-art technology, and dance styles ranging from ballet to contemporary, hip-hop to jazz, street to tap.

(via press release)

Daily Dance: Finola Hughes As ‘Victoria’ In CATS

Finola Hughes as ‘Victoria’ in CATS

In honor of the passing of Dame Gillian Lynne, whose choreography graced two of the biggest musical theatre blockbusters of all time, Cats and The Phantom of the Opera, I share this lovely moment from the early 80s when Andrew Lloyd Webber shared a bit of Cats on a talk show as the musical launched in the West End.

For soap opera fans, yes, that’s General Hospital’s Finola Hughes dancing the role of the white cat, ‘Victoria.’

Regular readers know that I was an actor and dancer for many years on Broadway and in national touring companies, and my first big break was as ‘the magical Mr. Mistoffelees’ in a new national touring company of Cats back in the mid-80s.

I smile thinking about my ‘Victoria,’ the now-super successful Broadway choreographer JoAnn Hunter (School of Rock, Disaster!, On a Clear Day). I watched JoAnn do this every night for hundreds of performances as the very next moment after her solo ended I made my entrance to ‘break the spell.’

Good times. Thank you, Gillian Lynne.

Watch below.

Dame Gillian Lynne (CATS, Phantom Of The Opera) Passes Away At 92

Director/choreographer Dame Gillian Lynne (Cats, Phantom of the Opera) passed away today at the age of 92

A legend leaves us.

With heavy heart I share the news that acclaimed director/choreographer Dame Gillian Lynne passed away today at the age of 92.

Best known for her choreography for two of the longest running shows on Broadway – CATS and The Phantom of the Opera – Gillian’s career spanned decades and knew no boundaries.

From ballet to opera to theater to television to movies, Dame Gillian was triumphant in every medium she approached.

More career details from BroadwayWorld:

Gillian was a leading soloist with Sadler’s Wells Ballet, the star dancer at the Palladium, played opposite Errol Flynn in the movies and danced with all the greats on TV. She became instrumental in the development of jazz dance in Britain and her distinctive style – a fusion of classical and jazz – led to her groundbreaking work on the world-famous Cats, which was recognised with a new category of Olivier Award, specially created for her to acknowledge Outstanding Achievement of the Year in a Musical. Cats continues to be produced worldwide Gillian’s 50-plus Broadway and West End shows include: Tonight at 8.30, Love on the Dole, The Match Girls, TomFoolery, Jeeves Takes Charge, Cabaret, The Roar of the Greasepaint, Pickwick, The Card, Phil The Fluter, Hans Christian Andersen, My Fair Lady, Songbook, The Phantom of the Opera and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.

For the Royal Shakespeare Company: A Midsummer Night’s Dream, The Comedy of Errors, The Way of the World, As You Like It, Once in a Lifetime and The Boy Friend. She has previously worked with Adrian Noble on the RSC production The Secret Garden.

Gillian’s opera productions include the direction of Bluebeard, The Trojans, The Midsummer Marriage, The Flying Dutchman and Parsifal. Among Gillian’s ballets are Breakaway, Lippizaner, The Brontes and Journey for the Bolshoi.

On television, Gillian has directed The Various Ends of Mrs F’s Friends, Easy Money, The Look of Love, The Morte d’Arthur, which won the Samuel G Engel Award in America, and A Simple Man, which won a 1987 BAFTA.

She staged many of The Muppet Shows for ATV and her 11 feature films include A Wonderful Life, Half a Sixpence, Man of La Mancha and Yentl.

She was honored with the Olivier Award for her choreography for CATS, as well as Tony and Drama Desk Award nominations for the Broadway production. Another Tony nomination came for her gorgeous work on Phantom.

My first big job as an actor in New York City was being cast as “The Magical Mr. Mistoffelees” in a brand-new national touring company of CATS. The job, and the show, saved my life in many ways.

Years later I was able to thank Dame Gillian for her brilliant work that in very real terms created jobs for thousands and thousands of people.

A total class act, she could also be very bawdy and fun.

Rest in Peace, Dame Gillian.

Tony Award winner Betty Buckley, who worked with Dame Gillian on CATS and the London premiere of Jerry Herman’s Dear World, shared her thoughts on the loss on Instagram:

News Round-Up: December 7, 2017

Some news items you might have missed:

• Fitness guy Ben Zerbst posts on Instagram he thought he heard a dog. Actually, it was just me woofing.

• One of the gay men Kentucky County Clerk Kim Davis denied a marriage license has announced he will run for her office.

• Actor/athletes Terry Crews is suing his former William Morris Endeavor agent, Adam Venit, alleging Venit grabbed Crews by the balls at a party.

• Folks were wondering about Donald Trump’s unusual speech impediment during his announcement that the U.S. would recognize Jerusalem as the capitol of Israel. Many suspect his dentures came loose. Take a listen and decide for your self.

• Pot meet kettle: Steven Bannon criticized 2012 Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney saying he avoided military service by serving his Mormon mission during Vietnam. Ironic since Bannon shepherded Donald Trump to the presidency. Trump famously received deferment after deferment for “bone spurs” during Vietnam.

• For the first time in history, a cast member of the Broadway production of CATS was involved in an incident with a dog during a performance.

• Retired pro soccer star Robbie Rogers married TV and film producer Greg Berlanti. The twosome have been a couple since 2013 and became engaged last December. They are parents to adorable Caleb, who they had via surrogate in February 2016.