The place is lit up with bright sunshine this morning, and my black cat, Shorty, nestled right by the keyboard bears witness; I’m bursting with gratitude marveling at the accomplishment Paramount Theatre achieved over the weekend: the opening of CATS Saturday night! The capacity crowd on their feet roaring with applause, obviously feeling good to acknowledge such great work! It has always seemed to me that giving recognition as “the gift is in the giving” and “the reward is in the doing,” two of my favorite mantras, is much more meaningful than taking a compliment. I’d like all of you who have seen the show to join me saluting our tireless, expert crew led by Lou Ann Cates and Jason Pikscher! I tell ya, without them, nothing would happen! Kevin Depinet’s mammoth 3 story set is a new physical environment for the piece and an amazing work of art. Jesse Klug’s lights are stunningly mind blowing with Mike Stanfill’s projections as Theresa Ham’s costumes are gorgeously fantastic. Adam Rosenthal’s sound design is so beautifully full and rich as Katie Cordts & Lauren Cecil’s wigs and make-up are so fabulously realized. Our director, music director and conductor of the phenomenal Paramount Orchestra , super hero Shawn Stengel, is a real pro and a wonder wearing all three hats! And enough cannot be said of the dazzling choreography authored by brilliant Harrison McEldowney partnered with Jeremy Plummer’s thrilling bungee and aerial stunts! If there were awards for Production Stage Management, Rose Marie Packer and Becca Fischer would make a clean sweep;they are indispensable! Sarah Ross displays as ever her clever creativity designing props and all would be lost without Production Manager Beth Ellen Spencer and Company Manager Jennette Nohl.

Let’s talk about this cast in the words of The Chicago Tribune’s Chris Jones yesterday:”…a genuinely spectacular show…I truly can’t remember a “Cats” with so engaged, fluid and athletic an ensemble.” High praise. The dancing featuring Lizzie MacKenzie as Victoria, The White Cat, is jaw-dropping by turns gymnastic, dynamic and lyrical as the talent of each individual on Paramount’s stage personifies the beauty of poetry in motion. You will not forget the singing of Andy Planck as Old Deuteronomy, George Keating as Gus/Growltiger, Holly Stauder as Grittlebone, Olivia Renteria as Sillabub, Rhett Guter as Munkustrap and the incandescent Lauren Villegas as Grizzabella,The Glamour Cat. They dance while their voices soar in a once in a lifetime theatrical experience!

I want to share with you a review I received from 10-year-old Gracie Avery:

“CATS The Musical at Paramount Theatre in Aurora, Illinois was overall spectacular. I found it hard to believe that the entire cast is dancing non-stop, using choreography harder than Broadway, and they never sound winded, ever. There is no sound of tired in their voices, even when doing a cartwheel or backflip. The set was so realistic and it was no little thing that the cats crawled around on. The whole stage was full of things that the cats were jumping off of and doing different acrobatic moves. Each cat type was very well executed and there was no confusion between the different ones. The make-up was most currently not “dumbed down” in any way. The costumes perfect and it seemed to me from the audience that there was no trouble for the actors to move the way they needed to in them.

One of the strongest numbers was “Jellicle Ball.” The dancing was clean and of course challenging, no “dumbing down” done in this show. Also, “Mungojerrie and Rumpleteaser,” featuring Jonny Stein and Laura Savage, was without a doubt the most entertaining number in the show because of the top notch acrobatic choreography. Of course it is a very hard decision to make because all of the numbers were marvelous!”

It’s obvious Gracie enjoyed herself immensely giving her honors to the show as much as she did attending it!

Finally, honors go to Jim Jarvis, VP of Marketing and President and CEO, Tim Rater. What a great, extraordinary team we have at the helm of Paramount’s remarkably staffed offices where they are making miracles happen at RiverEdge Park and Paramount Theater’s entertainment programming. I can’t tell you how good it feels to thank them and praise them and work for and with them! We have got our Broadway Series Season Four starting off with a bang!

Gotta say, it seems that to take stock in the importance of recognizing talent and art wherever you may find it and just how good it feels to acknowledge anyone in your life who deserves a “job well done!” can reward and inspire you in your own work! “To give is to receive,” folks!

With my love & thanks,