Chinese CATS TicketBe honest. What did you think this was going to be about when you read the headline “CATS in Tianjin”? Maybe the plethora of stray cats running around the city? Maybe what I had for dinner last night? Wrong on both accounts! One of the biggest Broadway musical hits of all time, CATS, is touring through China at the moment and it just so happened to stop in Tianjin this last weekend.

I just had to go.

Who can say they’ve been to a Broadway show in China!?

Well, here’s the story: I was reading the local foreigner’s monthly, Jin Magazine, and I saw an article for CATS coming to town. It shared a bit about the origin and history of the musical and I realized that I had never really seen it before. Always a fan of the theater, I had to question my true loyalties. I’d probably regret not going, right? I looked at the date and initially thought it might be too late. This was on Tuesday, I think. The next day, I asked my boss how I’d go about getting tickets and she called the ticket office right then and ordered a ticket for myself and the American girl working with me. The tickets arrived on Thursday, and we saw the show on Friday. No regrets whatsoever.

The article said, “What makes CATS so popular on an international scale is that it focuses on the basics of musical theater. There are no didactic political diatribes, no intense philosophical investigations, only highly skilled dance and song.” Truthfully, it probably wouldn’t have even been allowed in China if it was any more than that. It also said that the actors and actresses were going to be from Australia but that the set was the original one from New York City. My anticipation was building.

We paid relatively nothing for the tickets and when the night came, we were both beyond excited to finally see what it would entail. Rush hour was in full swing when we headed out, so we decided against taking the bus and went with a taxi. (Crazy idea.) Anyways, the show was being held at the beautiful Tianjin Grand Theater and was quite the spectacle, to say the least. There was a long line of Chinese people trying to get in, but they ushered us in front of all of them and barely even looked at our tickets. They were searching everyone else’s bags, but they didn’t look in ours for some reason. I smelled favoritism. Needless to say, we got there really early. We looked around and took it all in.

The set was spectacular. Our first impressions were of a junkyard and we were right. It wrapped around the corners of the theater and down into the first row. Trash was everywhere and a big tire was in the backdrop. The colors were magnificent and the lights were so cleverly arranged. At this point, you could slice my anticipation with a cat claw.

One question still remained, though… was the show going to be in English or Chinese? Our tickets were in Chinese, the advertisements for the show were all in Chinese, and there were tons of Chinese people there. Were we going to have to guess what the dang show was about? Was there going to be translation? We didn’t seem to care.

CATS in TianjinRight before the lights went down, there were these roadie-type people going through the crowd telling people to turn the flashes off of their cameras and to not take video, etc. My mind immediately flashed back to the days when I was living on the road, working for live productions, and trying to control crowds of people – it’s not exactly fun. It’s stressful and unnerving, at best. Multiply that by 100 when it comes to Chinese people. No offense, but it’s literally impossible to control a mongering Chinese crowd in a small space. I found it humorous that these roadies were still trying, though. Note, I find lots of things humorous.

Let the show begin, already!

Our language question was answered immediately, obviously. They were speaking in English and there were two huge screens to the sides of the stage with a Chinese translation. I wonder how they translated “Jellicle Cats,” “Rum Tum Tugger,” and “The Heaviside Layer”? We had a great view of the stage and noticed right away how intricate the costumes and make-up was on each individual cat character. And the way they moved around stage was genius! If you didn’t keep reminding yourself it was a play, you might have actually thought it was real little cats running around.

The tap dancing number was incredible and I loved the Michael Jackson routine. Some songs that stood out were “Memory” and “Mr. Mistoffelees”… excellent singing and unmatched dancing. I loved every minute! For one song, one of the cats even sang a verse in Chinese and the crowd erupted in applause! Quite impressive.

During the intermission, the actors came out into the audience and did all these cat-like things around the theater. The Chinese people ate this up! They were taking pictures left and right and bodyguards had to be brought in to make room for the cats to get back to the stage. I was laughing my pants off. They probably didn’t make that mistake the next night. Or not.

Anyways, CATS, in one word, was exceptional. I’m so glad we went. It was all I had dreamed of… and more! Oh yeah, and the people were totally using flash photography the whole time.

I hadn’t even been here a week and I’d already seen a Broadway show… I think I’m gonna survive just fine, and I think I’m gonna like it.