The Making of 'Cats': Now Running at West High

To save money and learn all the processes of a huge theatrical production, cast members made their own costumes, apply their own makeup.


The tedious and time-consuming task of shredding apart single strands of yarn to make individual cat hairs for a full and furry wig is just one of the many unique endeavors "Cats" cast members performed in preparation for tonight’s opening of the Tony Award-winning musical.

“I’d say it took each student about 15 to 20 hours to prepare their individual wigs,” said Wauwatosa West High School Theatre Director Adam Steffan. “Watching the process was pretty incredible. It was just one of many time-intensive things this cast has done to fully prepare for this show. It’s been a valuable learning experience and journey for them and tonight, they are ready to wow the audience.”

In addition to making their own wigs, the students custom-painted their cat costumes – unitards – and learned to apply their own makeup. This was on top of learning songs and choreography for what is billed as one of the most challenging productions for a high school to produce. A cast of 52 students has been in rehearsal since the start of the school year.

But preparations for the opening Friday of Wauwatosa West High School’s "Cats" began during the summer with dance workshops, learning songs and logistics of the set and determining the most cost-effective way to outfit such a large cast on a tight budget.

Costume and wig rentals for a show with cast of this size could have dug deep into the theater budget, so the decision was made to have the students make their own. The end result of the student made costumes and wigs rivals the best Hollywood rentals.

Composed by Andrew Lloyd Webber and first produced on Broadway in 1982, the long-running show has earned numerous awards. The show tells the story of a tribe of cats called the Jellicles, and the night they make what is known as "the Jellicle choice" – which cat will ascend to the Heaviside Layer – which symbolizes heaven – and come back to a new life. The story is told through song and dance, which makes it even more challenging for the cast.

“The talent we have at West is truly amazing,” said Steffan. “I continue to be amazed by the commitment these students have shown to tackle such a show. I am so proud of all of them.”

The musical lists 19 leads and supporting roles for the total of 52 cast members. In addition, dozens more students are playing in the pit orchestra and helping backstage with stage crew.

Tickets are going fast for this show, and the community is urged to visit www.trojanplayers.com for link to online ticket sales or go directly to the ticket sale outlet at www.seatyourself.biz/trojanplayers. All seats are reserved.

Online ticket sales for same-day shows close about eight hours before the show. The box office will open 30 minutes prior to each performance for onsite ticket purchases with cash, check or credit card. 

The show opened Friday at 7 p.m. with additional shows at 7 p.m. Saturday and on Nov. 9 and 10, and a 2 p.m. matinee on Sunday. Tickets are $15 for adults; $12.50 for senior citizens 62 and up; $10 for students; and $7.50 for children 6 and under. For more information call the Trojan Players hotline at 414-773-3219.


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