This interviewer is not an attorney and legal advice is not distributed during Q&A sessions. However, I’ve seen enough Law & Order to know that it might be best for actor Kade Wright, who will be performing in the role of Munkustrap during the upcoming run of the popular musical ‘CATS’ when it arrives on November 1 – November 20 at Playhouse Square, to simply turn himself into the authorities. Video cassette tape is not a felony in Wright’s home state of Georgia, and, besides, the statute of limitations has likely expired for petty theft. Not to mention, Wright committed that crime at the ripe age of three years old. Now an adult, could he even be tried in an adult court?
The crime in question? Kade stole a VHS tape of the 1998 stage recording of ‘CATS’ from his aunt.
“She’s not getting it back,” he said definitively. “I took it home with me and I don’t know what happened. The acting bug just bit me. I fell in love with ‘CATS.’ I watched that VHS every day, twice per day, for the next eight years.”
“My punishment when I got in trouble is they would take the ‘CATS’ VHS tape from me,” he continued with a laugh.
The video featured actors Michael Gruber and Jacob Brent, two performers that inspired Wright to pursue his dream of acting.
“I didn’t take dance growing up. Back in that time in small-town Georgia, boys didn’t really take dance. Everything I learned from dance I got from that VHS tape,” Wright said. “I fell in love with ‘CATS’ and to be doing it now is just a big full-circle moment.”
‘CATS’ is Kade’s first role in a major touring production. In fact, save a summer gig performing in Ohio at Cedar Point amusement park, this is his first job out of college, PERIOD.
The aforementioned Jacob Brent, a star in the 1998 thieved-VHS tape, would eventually play a significant role in Wright’s life as he chased his dreams. While auditioning for a scholarship at Shenandoah Conservatory in Virginia, Wright was pleasantly surprised to meet one of his inspirations.
“I went to the audition, and the person leading the dance call was Jacob Brent, who was Mr. Mistoffelees in that 1998 version. I noticed him immediately and went up to him and was like. ‘I’ve never taken dance. Everything I know is from you and that cast and what I saw on that tape,” Wright recalled.
“Let’s see if you learned anything.”
“I did the dance portion and then I came back and sang the next day. They gave me a good scholarship to go to the school and that’s where I went for four years,” Kade continued. “Jacob Brent became my mentor and teacher. To get to call him and tell him that I booked this role in the show was a very emotional moment, to say the least.”
Yes, everything has come full circle for Kade. The show he fell in love with has become his occupation. He was asked what it is like to have landed his dream job right out of college.
“‘CATS,’ is one of those shows that people start their musical theater journey with. It definitely was for me. To see all these kids in the audience with their cat ears and cat tails and to come up and ask for an autograph, I can’t help but see myself in these moments,” he said. “It was my first love for Broadway so to give that gift to another kid is the best part of the gig when I’m tired at the end of those eight show weeks.”
In this production, Wright stars in the role of Munkustrap. He was asked to describe his character and his role in the show:
“He is the leader of the tribe. He’s the narrator. He tells us the story at the beginning through the 12 lines and tells us the story of the show,” Wright explains. “He helps us narrate the characters. He’s also the protector of the cats. When the bad guy comes around, Mukestrat is the first to take action against him. He’s almost always on guard and the foundation of the tribe that they come back to when things get crazy. And, they do.”
As a performer, Wright was asked to pick a highlight of the show that is special to him.
“I think my favorite part for myself is when I get to come out and do the 12 lines to introduce the plot of the entire show and let the audience know what’s going on,” he decided. “There’s this moment in the end when all of the cats are behind me and I say, “Who will it be?” and all of the CATS repeat, “Who will it be?” I can picture Micahel Gruber doing it in the 1998 VHS and I got chills that I’m now the one up there doing it.”
Additionally, Wright was asked what his favorite part is for the audience to witness.
“Honestly, the Jellicle Ball, because it’s just a minute-long dance number where we just celebrate what validity is to us, being a cat, and a lot of showing off to Old Deuteronomy, who gets to pick the cat that gets to ascend to the heavy side layer,” he said. “We work out butts off on it. We’re sweating, jumping, leaping, turning, and to watch the audience’s faces as we’re gliding across the stage, we’re just in awe and it feels good to have all of that hard work pay off. It’s a physically demanding part of the show, but it feels good to have the audience react in all of the different states.”
With an impressive Broadway run and countless national tours, fans of ‘CATS’ keep returning to the show, often bringing their own litter to enjoy the classic as well.
“I think what makes the show so timeless is that there is something for everyone of all ages,” Wright summarizes. “There’s something very relatable for humans for this show, the way we tell these stories and such kind of parallels human life and the way we treat each other and interact with each other in the real world.”