WHEN Tobias Madden went to see a musical for the first time as a child, he instantly knew he wanted his career to be a part of musical theatre.
That first show happened to be Cats, and as if by serendipity, today Madden is one of the cast members in the latest Australian production of the long-running Andrew Lloyd Webber musical.
[showads ad=MREC] When you step out on stage in front of thousands of people you can’t help but be in a hyped circumstance,” Madden said, explaining his love of performing.
“It’s a special relationship you share on stage where you are able to tell a classic story like this one.”
Fellow cast member Ross Hannaford, who also has rich childhood memories of seeing countless theatrical productions, agreed with Madden.
Based on T.S Eliot’s Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats, the musical is a story about the Jellicle Cats who come out to play in a larger-than-life junkyard on the night of the Jellicle Ball. Having captivated more than 73 million people in over 300 cities and winning numerous accolades — including Olivier and Tony awards — Cats has returned to Australia after a 12-year absence with an original creative team and cast, notably with Delta Goodrem in the starring role of Grizabella.
Madden, who happens to be gay, takes on the role of the Carbucketty, a young, innocent cat who is trying to fit in and live like an adult cat. Meanwhile Hannaford, also gay, takes on the role of Skimbleshanks, an older paternal figure who runs the train station.
Both explained that because Cats’ plot was based on poetry and filled with metaphors, audiences could draw their own meanings.
“[It] is one of the great things about the show,” Hannaford said.
“It’s about rebirth and new beginnings, so the LGBT community can take from Cats what they will, which is really great.”
Having been a part of Wicked for three years, Madden said he could understand why many LGBTI community members had a love of Broadway musicals.
“It is such a versatile musical that it would resonate with any minority group,” he said.
Both he and Hannaford point to Broadway songs Here’s Where I Stand from Camp and I Am What I Am from La Cage Aux Folles as their most notable gay anthems.
Nonetheless, they said the stereotypical “flamboyant” reputation of musicals was something that should be left in the past.
“There is a lot of serious drama going on now. Next To Normal for example is a Pulitzer Prize-winning musical,” Madden said.
“I just think it’s difficult to put (musical theatre) it in a box like that and generalise it.
“Musical theatre is moving forward.”
Cats is currently showing in Sydney’s Capitol Theatre. It will then tour to Hobart, Melbourne, Brisbane and Adelaide before finishing up in Perth in 2016. For details and tickets, visit catsthemusical.com/australia
**This article was first published in the December edition of the Star Observer, which is available now. Click here to find out where you can grab a copy in Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, Adelaide, Canberra and select regional/coastal areas.
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