From The New
York Times (October 6, 1996, Sunday, Late Edition - Final)
Section 13; Page 3; Column 1; The City Weekly Desk
MAKING IT WORK: the 15 Lives of 'Cats'
by DANIEL B. SCHNEIDER
Maybe you've seen the show, maybe not. But you've seen the poster. Eight men and seven women wearing rags and wigs and felt and fur, faces flattened and whitened and whiskered by makeup, crouching and stretching and huddling against one another, hissing and mewling at the camera. Stripes, spots and paws against a black backdrop.
The "Cats" posters first went up 12 years ago, when the show was a yowling commercial success two years into its Broadway run. People still pour into town by the busload to see it. And so the posters keep going up, again and again, in the appointed precincts: 300 along commuter railway routes, 60 in New York City subways, about 20 at any given time in the theater district and in whatever cities the national tour will visit next. More than 2,000 are printed a year; more than 25,000 have been printed since the poster was introduced.
The actors were photographed by Martha Swope at her studio on West 43d Street, on June 26, 1984. She used a secondhand 1952 Rolliflex camera and Kodak Daylight Ektachrome film, under studio strobes. The young cast arrived by van, in full costume, and departed about an hour later. Soon after, the posters went up -- and stayed up.
Years ago, while waiting for a D or an F train or for a light to turn green, you may have studied the people in the poster and wondered about them, maybe about one in particular. But no more. The numbingly familiar posters melt into the landscape, like newsstands or parking signs, and the faces go unnoticed. And though they still paw the air silently as the train rolls into the station, most of the actors stopped being cats a long time ago.
1. TERRENCE MANN, Rum Tum Tugger. Has flourished in roles on and off Broadway since he left the show in the summer of 1985. He was nominated for Tony, Drama Desk and Outer Critics Circle Awards as best actor in a musical for his performance as the Beast in "Beauty and the Beast," and nominated for a Tony as Javert, the sinister police inspector in "Les Miserables." His last Broadway show was "Getting Away With Murder." He is artistic director of the North Carolina Theater and is married to the dancer Charlotte d'Amboise.
2. CLAUDE R. TESSIER, Munkustrap.
Left the cast in the fall of 1986. Later he was in the national touring company of "Les Miserables. He died of AIDS in 1992.
3. BRIAN SUTHERLAND, Alonzo.
Has performed around the world since he left the cast in 1986. His last New York appearance was in "110 in the Shade" with the New York City Opera in 1992. He is currently starring in "The Most Happy Fella" in St. Louis.
4. TIMOTHY JEROME, Gus, the Theater Cat.
Left the show in 1986. He is currently in the workshop of the new musical "Make Someone Happy" and has appeared on Broadway as Preysing in "Grand Hotel," Eddie in "Lost in Yonkers" and Parchester in "Me and My Girl," a supporting role that brought him Tony and Drama Desk Award nominations. He recently appeared in "The Petrified Prince" at the Public Theater and had small roles in two Woody Allen movies.
5. DENISE DIRENZO, Sillabub.
After leaving the show in 1986 she moved to Georgia, where she spent six years acting, directing and choreographing. Last year she moved to Philadelphia, where she was nominated for a Barrymore Award as best actress for her performance in "Falsettos." She recently moved back to New York City.
6. BONNIE SIMMONS, Jellylorum.
An original cast member, left in June 1992 after almost 10 years in the show. Fellow cast members believe that she has left show business.
7. STEVEN GELFER, Carbucketty.
An original cast member, left in July 1986. He died of leukemia in late 1988.
[Note: Other obits attribute his death to AIDS, including Betty Buckley's charity convert--there is a strain of leukemia that targers those with severly weakend immune systems.]
8. MICHAEL SCOTT GREGORY, Skimbleshanks.
Left the show in 1986 but returned in 1990. He also appeared in the original Broadway casts of "Starlight Express" and "Jerome Robbins's Broadway." He choreographed and directed commercials and music videos. He died of AIDS in 1992 at the age of 29.
9. ANNA MCNEELY, Jennyanydots.
Was in the original cast, stayed until 1989. She has since appeared in the Broadway production of "Gypsy" and is currently in "Beauty and the Beast."
10. KEVIN MARCUM, Old Deuteronomy.
Left the show in May 1986. He appeared in several Broadway shows, including "Sweeney Todd" and "A Doll's Life." In 1987 he appeared in "Les Miserables" and was understudy to Colm Wilkinson in the lead role of Jean Valjean. Shortly after learning that the lead was to be his that autumn, he disappeared for several days; he was found dead of a cocaine overdose in his apartment.
11. LAURIE BEECHMAN, Grizabella.
The cat that sings "Memory" has left the show and returned several times; her last appearance was from January to April 1993. She endured two bouts with ovarian cancer several years ago and is now healthy. She has appeared in New York clubs and cabarets since the mid-1970's, and recently released her fourth solo recording.
[NOTE: She dies in 1998 of Ovarian Cancer.]
12. HERMAN SEBEK, Mr. Mistoffelees.
Was 22 when he posed for the poster. A back injury forced him to leave the cast in the spring of 1985. He later appeared on Broadway in "Song and Dance" and "Shogun," and last appeared as the Engineer in "Miss Saigon." He is now producing and recording his own album of pop songs.
13. MARLENE DANIELLE, Bombalurina.
Is the only one in the photograph who remains in the cast. Since she took over the part in January 1984, she has appeared more than 5,000 times. She also appears in movies and television commercials, and has provided the voices for several animated television characters. She lives in Jersey City.
14. JANE BODLE, Demeter.
Left the show in 1986. She has since appeared on Broadway as Ellen in "Miss Saigon," and was in the original company of "Les Miserables" and "Me and My Girl." She is currently on Broadway in "Sunset Boulevard."
15. CYNTHIA ONRUBIA, Victoria.
Left the cast in the summer of 1984, and is currently assistant choreographer and in the ensemble of "Victor/Victoria" on Broadway. She has performed in, served as dance captain of or assisted the choreographers of many Broadway shows, including "Song and Dance," "Jerome Robbins's Broadway," "The Goodbye Girl" and "Damn Yankees."
GRAPHIC: Photo: A "Cats" poster, made from a Martha Swope photo, hangs in the Eighth Street station.