Cats / Hamburg Did you know or even see Cats before you did an audition?   Yes. When I was fifteen years old, my Jazz teacher took me to see Cats in Milan.  There was this european tour, and we went to this theatre which [he actually told  me some names] changed a thousand times the name, and it was beautiful! I  really, really enjoyed it and I really wished I could do it one day. I was fifteen, can  you imagine, almost ten years ago.   How did you happen to be part of Cats Hamburg?   I did an audition in Italy when I was eighteen. I did audition for "Seven brides for  seven brothers" and then one month after I really got the job [in 7 brides for 7  brothers] there was an audition for Cats in school and my teacher just said  "Do it,  it's experience" I said, "Well come on, It's a huge musical, they will never take me!"  Actually I found out they were looking for "Mistoffelees" after the audition, when  they offered me the contract. What do you have to do on a Cats audition?   We had to do - all together - the beginning of the Jellicle Ball, which is the  beginning. Then they asked me to sing, they cut and then they asked me to stay  again to do the ballet part of the Jellicle Ball, the one Alonzo does. Probably to  see how far your technique can go. They ask everybody, because they keep some  small people and some tall guys. And then they asked me to stay again, it was just  me, the only boy and two girls. So the two girls went to another room to do the  Vicky solo and they taught me the last part of the Mistoffelees number, which is  the turn in the second and the manege with coupe jeté. I was in at 10 o'clock in  the morning to start the audition and finished at 4:30. It was very hard, but very  good. Were you afraid to go to a foreign country?   Yes! Very afraid. Especially because I never took a plane before. So I was on the  stairs  to go on the plane, and I just stopped and the lady behind me, she was like  "What's wrong?" and I said, "Nothing, I just never took a plane before (laughes) and  I'm not sure I wanna do it.". She was like "Come on I''ll be fun.", so with all the  stewards and the people on the plane it was fine. Though I was like "Is it normal  when it shakes like this?!". Every little thing that happened I was like (with a high  pitched, panick stuck voice) "Sorry, is it normal, is it okay, is it okay?" So afraid  (pauses). Then I arrived at the airport and there were the people with the Cats sign, like  "here, here". There was a girl from New York, she was an opera singer, and she  spoke like 25 words in italian, with my 5 words in english - that was all I could say  - we kind of understood each other… it was great. I arrived in the morning and in  the evening I saw Cats in Hamburg, and I was like "I have to do that? No"" (laughes)  When I saw Mistoffelees coming down  and do the variation in the end of the show  - I didn't know it was in the end of the show - I thought "awrighty". Plus the  Mistoffelees was Damian Kacperski, which is the first Mistoffelees I saw in Milano  and I met him afterwards. It was so just funny to meet the guy that did the role  that I  had dreamed about for so long.  Were there people who helped you to settle down in Germany?   Yeah, people from the office and friends, italian friends. There were two Italians,  one italian guy, which is Livio Salvi, and Elisa Petrolo, who was the girl with whom  I did the audition together and we got the contract together. But she left six  months before I did, because she could, she was free and I couldn't, because I had  to wait, to finish the tour with "Seven brides for seven brothers" in Italy, so I did  the castchange on february the 21st.     What did you like about Hamburg?   Everything! Beautiful! Plus I wasn't scared. I felt really sure about wandering about  in the evening, and I was like only 6 subway stops from the theatre, 10 minutes by  walk from the Hauptbahnhof. I was in a beautiful area (laughes), no really  beautiful area, full of bars and… great. I had a beautiful place… not the first one,  for the first month we were in B. But we were all there. We did all the rehearsal  together, we left together, we came together, so it was really, really nice and  beautiful. I had the most beautiful people in my cast in Hamburg, all of them. I  remember all of them, it was great! I wish I'd see them one day again. Some like  David Hartley (a. k. a. Hartland) are still here, he's in Düsseldorf [Miami Nights].   Then when I left, another italian guy arrived and I was his, let's say… when the  new cast arrives, you have always a person that will take care of you and explain  you everything. So Vanni Viscusi  arrived, he was going to be the first cast  Plato/Macavity, and I was his, let's say his buddy. I had to explain how the things  worked in the theatre, by that time my english was better, and it was fun! Who took care of you when you arrived?   Elisa, Livio, and there was this guy Fabian, who also spoke italian and he helped  me, too. And they taught you english, as well?   Yeah, most of it. Elisa and Livio taught me english. And Livio did something very  bad, like in the first two days he told me "Go to that girl!"  Because there was this  girl who was playing Demeter, and she was so fierce, she was really good. And I  wanted to tell her like "Wow! You're really amazing!" And Livio told me you have to  go to her and tell her "I like your knockers!" which is "I like your tits!" and I did!  She was shocked, she started to laugh! I was doing rehearsal in french. For the first two months I was speaking french  with this girl and with the Dance Captain, because Tim (v. d Straeten) is belgian  and he speaks fluent french, so he was translating everything for me. It was really  really good, thank God, otherwise I would have been like… (panicks again). So he  explained everything about the character. I used to watch the first act every night, it helped me watching other people, and I learned english a little bit. It was hard,  very hard. I got breakdowns like crying, because I could explain myself. It was  terrible, but people were really beautiful, so I had no trouble with that.   Which was your dreamrole in Cats?  Well, at first actually it was Mistoffelees which I think I grant my wish, I did it… so,  it was beautiful.  What's your favourite song or scene?   Well, I guess that when you hear a good singer as Grizabella singing "Memory" it's a  beautiful moment on stage. I mean as a performer to be on stage and have a very  good singer sing that song it's beautiful, always. Any kind of emotion can be  sadness, and it was really beautiful, and the last part when there's the smoke and  the (starts singing) "Hoch hoch hoch über's Russel Hotel" . What's your least favourite scene or song?   Depends on the role. As Mungo I really liked to do the Pekes and Pollicles, and as  Pouncival, too. In some other roles it was more boring. And the Siamese, unless I  was Mungojerrie so I could do Dschingis. The rest it was so boring plus it's hard,  because everyting is a big grand plié in the second and it's hard. At that point of  the show you're already very tired. The pirats was great to do it was fun.   Who's your favourite character?   I guess Bombalurina. Bombi, I always wanted to play Bombi (laughs) I think it's… a  lot of guys would have liked to. And my favourite that I played I think it was  Skimbleshanks, because it was very funny. I really really liked, really enjoyed to  play that role. Mistoffelees a lot because you can play a lot with your magic and  you're a mystical cat. And actually I think I was the only dumbass that really liked  to do Coricopat, because it was nice to do all the same with the other girl and if  you were in a good relation with the other girl it was good. I had a good time plus  you are this mystical cat, you can also be a little rude sometimes with people.  You're a special cat like Mistoffelees for example, so it's cool. Of course if I were a  beautiful girl like Elisa, I would love to play Victoria or Cassandra, like with  beautiful feet and legs up high in the air, 180 degress.  When you heard that you got a part in Cats, what was your first reaction?   I couldn't understand (chuckles). They called me and said this is Cats. There was a  friend of mine translating for me and I was jumping in the air, up and down, up  and down. Plus the entire company of seven brides - we were in a rehearsal -  looked at me like "You bastard, you got the best job, you gonna go there and get a  lot of money and become a star!" Which whatever... the money, I spent a lot of it,  become a star I'm not really sure about that, but I had a really good time!  How much liberties do you have to create your version of the character?   They give you lots of advise and lot's of things about the character. How it is.  Like  Mistoffelees is the magical cat and everything. That Pouncival is a kitten and  you're about 3 years old, so everything to you - even if you do like 400 shows in  one year - it should be always like the first time. You're excited about everything  that happens. You have no idea what danger is, so you're not really scared about  Macavity. You don't really know who he is, who is Grizabella, you just heard about  these people. They give a lot anyway, and then they say this is free. Also in the choreography, a  few moments they say "okay".  Like for Mistoffelees this is free, you do the jump,  you do the turns on the side which is best for you, you can do this, you can do  that. They give you let's say a lot of liberty to develop the character as best as you  can, and they try to give you the excitement to do this. I have to say that no-one ever did that like Donna [Hagan], who was my Dance  Captain in  Hamburg. She gave you the reason, she gave you exactly the  excitement to do it, she showed you. The way she moved her stomach, it was  amazing. She WAS an animal… and she always told us, look at cats, the way they  move. She really gives you the excitement, the passion, she could transfer her  passion for the show to you and it was amazing. What  was the most touching moment on stage?  Well, I cried a few times during "Memory", and I remember my last show as  Mistoffelees (pauses)... my last Mistoffelees show, it was one day before my last  show in Hamburg, and Siegmar Tonk was Rum Tum Tugger. And instead of saying  "Meine Damen und Herren, der magische Mr. Mistoffelees" then you jump and you  go on Plato and Alonzo's shoulder, he said: "Signore e Signori, a voi il magical Mr.  Mistoffelees" and I was crying there, I was really bawling my eyes off, it was so  beautiful! The way he said it and the way he looked at me, plus I think it was his  last show too, as Tugger, and we asked to be together. We were really attached,  and he was a very good friend, he is still, I mean we don't talk very much now...  also he's in Hamburg I'm here, but we saw each other in december, premier of  "Mamma Mia!", and it was great.  Are there any similarities between Pouncival the cat and you?   Oh yeah! It was very easy for me to play Pouncival, I just played myself with some  years less, but it was me, it was just myself and I had a lot of fun to do it, a lot of  fun with Daymon too. He was my Tumblebrutus, and I have to say we had a lot of  fun together, and I remember the last show, he turned around with his eyes full of  tears and he said: "I don't want another Pouncival!", because he was going to stay  another year and we had a good time together... plus we were in the same  dressing room...   Remembering your rehearsal time in Hamburg, what memories do you have?   Lots of pain, because the show is killing you, killing your hips, your back, your  neck, your knees, it was great, the rehearsal time was really heavy, really  great..., I have to say that it was a big bunch of any kind of emotions, it was  beautiful... scary, and everyting together. Your premier, what were your feeling before?   Before the premier? I think I didn't sleep and I was shaking like crazy, and I was  already late, like everybody was ready to go on stage, and I had to put my shoes  on, and I had to close my costume and everything, I was so late, it was hard to  learn how to do the make-up... that was very hard.   And during the premier?   Well, you have to worry about so many things that it's hard to get it right the first  time. Cats is kind of a show that you have to do at least one year. I never got  bored, except a few times but maybe for other reasons, that I was on stage maybe  a little... (snores) before the ball. You're dead, you're tired, you have to think  about the harmonies, you have to think about the words, you know everything,  when you go on stage you're ready, of course, but before the harmonies and the  words get quiet and the steps also get quiet, then you can think about your  character, it's hard to get all these four things right immediately, you'll take time  for that. It took about two or three months to get into a role, to get used to it, and then I  started to learn Mistoffelees, after the first two months and that was hard! Really  hard, escpecially because I didn't want to come down the maindrop, I'm afraid of  height, and I took a lot of time for that too...  Remembering your last show, what were your thoughts before?   Excited, like this was a dream that ended, like when you finish a book and you  don't want to, at the same time you want to, because you're very tired. After one  year in Cats your body is destroyed and you have to take a break, but then after  two weeks I was on stage again, because for one week they needed a Pouncival,  and then after that, I went back for like another few shows, and then for an entire  month, I was firstcast Pouncival understudying Mistoffelees again. And during the last show?    Lot's of tears during the ball I was really... Plus, six months after I was there,  Stefano Botempi, which was my best friend and helped me a lot with everything,  left, so I did the Ball in tears already there. I went through lot's of emotions during  that year in Cats, plus I love the theatre so much, everything...! I open the door  backstage, to pass through, to get to my dressing room, it was like open a door on  a magic world, there was a magic in that theatre that I haven't felt anywhere else.   And after your last show?   Emptyness, you feel like you've got nothing to do, and that's awful. I mean the  first week it's great, you just enjoy your freedom and it's great, but then that's it,  you tend to be in the theatre all the time anyway, 'cause all your friend are there.  Some people after the show leave and go back to their country, some other stay,  some other stay with the show, so you go to the theatre to see them, plus that was the period when I met Kelly and we started to hand around, so I was always in the  theatre anyway... Which one was your favourite of all your roles?   I don't know, I guess, it was Skimble? I had a good time playing Skimble, and I  really really enjoyed it. Plus there were a few dancing moments no other roles do,  so that was the only role I could do like the big boys for example, and that was  great. And I had the song, and I really loved the costume and the make-up, it was  beautiful. And I liked Mistoffelees, but with Mistoffelees and me, it was always  lots stress, me and Mistoffelees together it's a lot of stress...,  because of the  number, because it's in the end of the show, you're tired. I always enjoyed  Pouncival and I had a good time as Corico, I really think that I was the only  dumbass that liked to play Corico, I think I already said that.   Which role was the most tyring?   Tyring role? Pounce and Misto for sure. 'Cause Mungo has a good break in the  middle of the show, and Skimble it's... I used to get tired 'cause I was not doing  Skimble very often in the beginning. Then after a while I got to do it more, and  except the beginning of the Ball, Skimble started beginning of the ball and go on  and on, so it's a big block, and that's hard. But that's it for Skimble, everything  else is really good, really easy... I liked it very much, the number was a little  stressful, but it's cool...  Which role were you most afraid of?   Well Mistoffelees always was the one that did give me stomach ache.   Characterise your roles please.   Well, Pouncival, it's like me, it's a kid, and I had a lot of fun playing it. And I found  a lot of similarities, and that one was the best, especially 'cause I got inspired by  my brother. Yeah that's it about Pouncival. And Mistoffelees, he's a very mysterious cat, he's the magical cat, so that one I liked, that's also a side of me, when I was a  little kid I always imagined that I can have magic.  Sommer 2003   (c) Naomi