Andrew Lloyd Webber will donate his royalties from Perelman Performing Arts Center's upcoming Cats: "The Jellicle Ball" equally between the Andrew Lloyd Webber Initiative and PAC NYC. The ALW Initiative is a program of the American Theatre Wing that works to provide students of all levels with enhanced theatre education, part of a commitment to diversifying theatre workers and audiences.
The upcoming production, inspired by NYC's Ballroom scene, will play the downtown NYC venue June 13-July 14, 2024. Zhailon Levingston (Chicken & Biscuits) and Bill Rauch (All the Way) are directing, with Legendary season two winner Arturo Lyons and vogue dancer Omari Wiles providing the new choreography.
Tickets are now available to PAC NYC members and Citi cardmembers, with a general public sale beginning November 17 at PACNYC.org. Also on sale is the upcoming New York premiere of David Henry Hwang and Huang Ruo's opera About an American Soldier, playing the venue May 12-19, 2024, with Chay Yew at the helm. The staging will be co-produced by PAC NYC, Boston Lyric Opera, and American Composers Orchestra.
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 dramaturg and gender consultant for Cats: "The Jellicle Ball."