HILLSBOROUGH: ‘Cats’ canceled on Friday and another show added on Sunday night

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Costumer Pam Christian

Director Solomon has lifelong love for Broadway classic

By Gene Robbins, Managing Editor
** BULLETIN **
Another performance has been added for Sunday, March 8, at 7pm. Any ticket holder who has tickets for tonight’s performance has an option of retaining their seats for Sunday evening or exchanging for another scheduled performance.
The show has two performances on Saturdays, March 7 and 14, at 1 and 7 p.m., as well as a matinee at 1p.m. on Sunday, March 8, and a regularly scheduled performance at 7 p.m. Friday, March 13.
The theater cannot offer a refund for unused tickets.
Ticket holders must contact the box office directly at BoxOffice@HHSTheatre.org.
FEATURE STORY:
Directing “Cats” is a labor of love for B.J. Solomon.
Mr. Solomon, the impresario leading Hillsborough High School students in their latest blockbuster musical this weekend and next, has held a lifelong love affair with the 18-year Broadway musical tale of T.S. Eliot’s poetry.
When he was just three, his parents took him (a misordered ticket, he recalls) — to a performance of the show. To prepare, Mr. Solomon’s mother read him bedtime poetry and played the soundtrack recording. The young lad became infatuated.
“From then on I wanted to be an actor,” said Mr. Solomon. “It’s the ultimate show for me.”
He went on in his career to work with the original choreography and production on the Broadway run, he said, offering him insights and experience in producing the show.
“I am licensed through Andrew Lloyd Webber to recreate the show,” he said. “I even have the Broadway blueprint for the set.”
“Cats” will play on the Hillsborough stage on March 6, 7, 8, 13 and 14. Shows are Fridays and Saturdays at 7 p.m., Saturdays at 1 p.m. and Sunday, March 8, at 1 p.m. Pre-registered senior citizens will see the show in dress rehearsal tonight, Thursday, after being treated to a spaghetti dinner.
All tickets are $15 with reserved seating. Call 908-431-6600, ext. 2099, or www.HHSTheatre.org. The group will accept donations of food and litter for cats to give to local organizations
The high school stage will come alive with Jellicle cats — stunning in Broadway replica costumes and makeup — reuniting for their annual selection of one of their own to ascend to the Heavyside Layer and come back to a new life.
Cats will crawl out of an inspirational Hillsborough stage set that recreates a junkyard. They’ll pop up from oversized dresser drawers, appliances, old tires and even the back of an old car. To bring the perspective of small felines and make it believable, he said, it’s necessary for the set to have items four times the real size of things, he said.
The auditorium and foyer continue the theme. Blown-up prints of discarded trash — cereal boxes, gum wrappers, coffee cups — are taped to theater walls to give the idea of being surrounded in a junkyard. A thousand Christmas lights are strung around the theater, and four stanchions of moving lights will create other effects.
The lobby will have displays and “decorations” around recycling and waste management, the educational theme for students for the show.
The show has no specific script, telling the tale through songs and poetry of the 26 featured and eight ensemble cats. This was the right year and mix of student talent to bring the show to Hillsborough, he said.
“It’s all about highlighting the kids you have and making them look good,” he said.
A theme in “Cats” is the annual reuniting of family, said Mr. Solomon, and he’s carrying that thought by enlisting school theater alumni to return to help in aspects of production.
He said the show teaches that “no matter how far you go you are always part of your family.”
Julianna LoBiondo has taken over as the school’s choral teacher, replacing Christine Micu. As a senior at Hillsborough, she was Mr. Solomon’s first assistant in the staging of “West Side Story.”
Alex Minter, known as the Beast opposite the Beauty a few years back and now a Rutgers sophomore, is the assistant vocal director. Kyle Kravette, a Pace University senior working for a degree in computers and theater lighting, will handle lighting for the show.
Danielle Fairweather, a 2010 graduate now in Princeton in her first elementary school teaching job, will work as assistant choreographer. She worked with Mr. Solomon in producing “Cats” at Villagers Theater in Franklin Township.
Add all the elements, and Mr. Solomon promises a blockbuster evening.
“It’s going to be our best show ever,” he said.