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For the first time in its history, Andrew Lloyd Webber’s famous and beloved musical CATS will grace the stage at Newcastle Theatre Royal in the first ever performance of the show by amateurs at the renowned venue.

Pulling such a show off at a professional standard is no mean feat, and alongside the cast of 45 local performers, stand some of the North East’s foremost production talent, busily stitching costumes, building sets and designing make-up for each character.

Based on poet T.S Eliot’s Old Possum’s Book of Practical CATS, the thirty-six-year long running musical tells the story of a tribe of CATS called the Jellicles in a magical, moving and often hilarious glimpse into the lives of others.

As the show is being performed by an independent company, other than the music, all aspects of the choreography, set, costume and make-up must be original and authentic, making this show entirely unique in its creative vision by the director and choreographer Sandra Laidler.

Sandra said: “The set design is based on Newcastle’s quayside and links to the river. It was important to create a scene that was familiar to the audience and genuinely local to the ‘Toon’, so that they might fully envisage what CATS might truly get up to at night.”

Set designer Alison Ashton has made this vision a reality, designing the set to accommodate dancers on different levels and working with Durham Scenic Workshops in Sacriston to bring it to life.

Alison said: “I was keen to make it special for Newcastle so chose the location around the Quayside with steps leading into the Tyne, and tunnels and bridges along the way.

Now it is under construction, working from a model I made to scale. I am looking forward to seeing it come to life and the cast inhabiting the space.”

Costumes have also been designed to suit each cat’s individual personality. An old hand at designing anything from traditional theatre to burlesque, David Gibson has been tirelessly working to sketch and show each outfit.

David said: “Knowing that the costumes are such a recognisable and memorable part of the show, I wanted to stay as true as possible to the originals whilst stamping them with my own design aesthetics using silhouette, cut, and eye for colour and detail, as well as varying innovative uses of traditional textile techniques.”

Finally, each cast member has been provided with their own face by make-up designer Vanessa Wilthew, which will take them up to a whole hour to apply before curtain up.

Vanessa said: “By marrying my skills gained from time spent local architects and design companies practicing interior design and spare time as a face painter, I was able to develop the designs for the different characters in CATS.”

The main event of music and dance will not be shy of spectacular either.

Musical Director, Liam Gilbert said: “I love the music in CATS, particularly some of the beautiful choral singing. Almost every word in the show is sung, so it’s been an exciting challenge to put it together. It’ll mean the fifteen-piece orchestra have to work for their money too!”

Sandra said: “The cast and I have found it physically challenging but given it so much attention, they have been superb to work with. I’m stressed and tired but now it’s all blocked out, I am massively excited. It’s a once in a life time opportunity to be able to recreate CATS.”

Tickets for the CATS, which will run at Newcastle’s Theatre Royal from July 24 – 28, are priced from £12 and available at

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