A newly reimagined production of Andrew Lloyd Webber's Cats, inspired by NYC's Ballroom scene, will play a brand-new performance space at the World Trade Center site in Lower Manhattan next summer, with performances slated to appropriately begin during Pride Month 2024.
Most recently brought somewhat mainstream by the FX series Pose, the Ballroom scene is an underground LGBTQIA+ subculture that arose in 1920s NYC, arguably reaching its zenith in the '80s. Home to runway walk categories that invited participants to dress in any number of themes ranging from the extravagant to the fabulously commonplace, the Ballroom scene is also where vogue dancing comes from—but real vogueing, not Madonna vogueing. Dominated specifically by the Black and Latino queer communities, the scene has become ingrained in much of queer and popular culture today, particularly the world of drag. Ball culture was most famously memorialized in the iconic 1990 documentary Paris is Burning.
But the world of Ballroom will be a new take on the Lloyd Webber musical, which debuted in London in 1979 as a dance musical adapted from T.S. Eliot's book of poetry Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats. Largely plotless, the musical follows a tribe of so-called 'Jellicle' Cats who gather for an annual ball, presenting themselves for the chance to be reborn into a new life. The first act culminates in an all-dancing Jellicle Ball. While the connections to Ballroom culture might seem obvious now, the original production, choreographed by Gillian Lynne, featured quasi-modern ballet-inspired dance and cat costumes comprising '80s-appropriate leotards and leg warmers.
Josephine Kearns will serve as the upcoming production's dramaturg and gender consultant.
Though Hamilton choreographer Andy Blankenbuehler augmented Lynne's original choreography for a 2016 Broadway revival, this forthcoming production will be the musical's first major staging to dramatically depart from the original production.
The production is part of the upcoming inaugural season at Perelman Performing Arts Center, a brand-new performing arts space set to hit lower Manhattan's World Trade Center site with a grand opening in September. With events planned across the worlds of theatre, dance, music, opera, and film, the space hopes to become a cultural hub in downtown NYC. The innovative space is uniquely flexible, with the ability for multiple performance spaces to be configured in various setups, or even combined into a larger concert hall.
The first offering will be Refuge: A Concert Series to Welcome the World, a five-evening grand opening event beginning September 19 that will bring musicians from around the world to NYC to perform works around the theme of refuge. All five concerts will be pay-what-you-wish, with the roster of artists including Shoshana Bean, Common, Laurie Anderson, The Klezmatics, Tanya Tagaq, and many more.
Also planned for the venue's theatre offerings are Ellen Maddow and Paul Zimet's The Following Evening, about a couple creating what might be their final performance together following a lifetime together in experimental theatre, performing February 1–18, 2024; and the world premiere of Laurence Fishburne's solo play Like They Do in The Movies, performing March 10-31, 2024. A full schedule of performances is available at PACNYC.org.
See a video showcasing the brand-new Perelman Performing Arts Center below: