For weeks now, Brandon Michael Nase, who has performed in theaters across the country, who holds a master of music degree from New York University and who includes opera in the type of music he likes to sing, has gone to a job where he puts on a giant, furry cat costume.
The reason is, of course, the latest national tour of the musical Cats, returning to Houston, courtesy of Broadway at the Hobby, in the Andrew Lloyd Webber extravaganza that debuted in 1981 (based upon T.S. Eliot's poetry book Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats published in 1939) and has never been far from a stage somewhere ever since.
Nase plays Old Deuteronomy, the leader of the group of cats — as he sees it: an iconic role for an African American male.
"Old Deuteronomy, he is the leader of the tribe of cats. He's kind of there to point them in a direction that expresses love without bounds and love without limits. His role within the tribe is to show them there is a way to exist without judging and without being harsh. even if we disagree with people to show love to the best of our abilities."
The plot line centers on the group of cats' rejection of Grizabella and ultimate re-acceptance of her. "The root of Cats is a story of redemption and although we are on stage portraying cats, there is an aspect of humanity," Nase says. "Up on the stage you see all these different personalities and you say 'Ah that reminds me of this person in my life.'
"At the base of this is Grizabella who has been cast out. By the end of the show the tribe welcomes her back in and shows her ultimate forgiveness and expresses their love for her. I think that's something that we're always going to long for: that idea of redemption and acceptance and unconditional love," says Nase who grew up in Amarillo, got his undergrad degree in music from North Texas State in Denton and now calls New York City home.
It helps too, Nase says, "that the score ["Memory," "Jellicle Songs," "Mister Mistoffelees"] is just stunning and the choreography is just breathtaking."
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As for learning to act like a cat, Nase says, that took up a lot of the cast's time. "We did spend literally hours in a studio in New York crawling around on the floor and gaining our 'felinity.' There was also the time spent on our own watching videos of cats and just kind of seeing what are the characteristics of a cat: How do they respond to being scared? What are they like in their natural habitat of relaxing. And know that different cats have different personalities."
And while Old Deuteronomy is not going to be as spry as the young kittens twirling around and dancing on stage, he is still a cat, Nase says.
"I definitely embody more of the grounded and slow moving cat but even an older cat has those catlike reflexes that are just central to a cat," Nase says. "It's like whenever they're startled they jump up or they like stop very quickly and fully turn to look an examine whatever it is that. Regardless of age, I think a cat that jumps off something still lands on their feet."
Performances are scheduled for October 22-27 at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday and Sunday, 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday at the Hobby Center, 800 Bagby. For information, call 713-315-2525 or visit thehobbycenter.org or broadwayatthehobbycenter.com. $35-$250.