A purr-fect circus


Will work for Meow Mix: Jacquelyn Piro as Grizabella in the touring <i>Cats</i>, the first Music Circus show in the new Wells Fargo Pavilion.

Will work for Meow Mix: Jacquelyn Piro as Grizabella in the touring Cats, the first Music Circus show in the new Wells Fargo Pavilion.

Rated 4.0

Cats is cool. Really cool. So cool, it’s sweater cool. So, if you go to Cats, the premiere show at the newly remodeled, much heralded and very air-conditioned Music Circus, bring a wrap.

Yes, I’m talking about the Music Circus, that sweltering, stifling, sore-butt venue that you only went to as a kid, or after you had a kid. Well, Sacramento’s summer theater season is much more inviting with the new, vastly improved, 2,200-upholstered-seat Music Circus theater, Wells Fargo Pavilion.

As soon as you round the corner, past the construction that’s still taking place at the adjacent Sacramento Theatre Company (STC) building, and into the courtyard, you realize that old-school Music Circus is gone forever. In its place is a pretty impressive, big-city-looking theater, landscaped and all.

Once inside, it just gets better, though somehow the remodeled theater still maintains its yesteryear small-town charm.

The seats are brand-new, comfy, cushioned and, so far, stain-free. The air conditioning is blowing strong, the old tent poles have vanished—so it’s clear views for everyone—and there’s a promise of line-free bathrooms at intermission (though opening night found snaking lines in front of the women’s restrooms, natch).

But what makes this new venue sing and dance are the technical aspects: a beautiful sound system; techno-edgy lighting; and a transformer-like center stage that rotates, elevates, folds up and down, and morphs into various sets and scenes.

What’s hard to believe is that this wonderful new theater will be used only for the two-month-long Music Circus season. That was part of the negotiations with STC: It agreed the new Music Circus theater could be at the old spot as long as there was no direct theater competition during STC’s regular theater season. Actually, what would be great is if the new theater turned into an intimate concert venue: Its capacity is about 1,500 less than that of the Sacramento Memorial Auditorium.

Cats, that mysteriously successful musical about felines, is the perfect opening show for the new venue. Director Leland Ball deserves kudos for creating a production that makes theater-in-the-round the only logical way of staging this song-and-dance tribute to T.S. Eliot’s Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats. These very talented cats crawl, prance, dance, play and run throughout the theater, using every space and aisle, just as real cats would. The secret of Cats is to enjoy it on a surface level—the costumes, makeup, songs and dances—and just not look too closely for a plot, character development or deeper meaning ’cause they just ain’t there.