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N.M. native’s ‘Memory’ memorable

David Steinberg

Barbra Streisand, Celine Dion and José Carreras have covered the famous ballad “Memory.” So has Jason Castro on “American Idol.” But none can probably say they’ve sung the song as the character Grizabella in “Cats.” Kathryn Holtkamp can make that claim...

And based on her deeply evocative performance of the musical Friday night at Popejoy Hall, Holtkamp can say that with conviction.

The national touring company will give two more performances of “Cats” at Popejoy – this afternoon and this evening.

Holtkamp, born and raised in Los Alamos, introduced Grizabella with a brief version of “Memory” near the end of Act I. She returned near the conclusion of Act II with a full rendition that enraptured the audience.

Grizabella, bent and tattered, has left her life as a onetime glamour girl to rejoin the Jellicle tribe of felines, but they treat her as an outcast. She merely wants acceptance.

Holtkamp is a member of a cast that collectively gave a powerful performance – in song and in complex choreography – in what may be the ultimate ensemble musical. The performers were as furry, flexible, and sometimes as ferocious as any domestic or feral cat.

The show’s story explains how the felines are named and through its memorable music profiles some of them. Those include the provocative rocker Rum Tum Tugger, small-time Mungojerrie and Rumpelteazer, erstwhile star of stage Asparagus aka Gus (“Growltiger’s Last Stand” is a brilliantly conceived scene), bounding railway-riding Skimbleshanks and magician Mr. Mistoffelees.

“Cats” is celebrating its 30th anniversary on stage this year. It debuted in 1981 in London’s West End and the next year opened on Broadway.

Read T.S. Eliot’s “Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats,” first published in 1939, which was the basis for most of the lyrics accompanying Andrew Lloyd Webber’s music. Most because Grizabella isn’t in that collection; she’s in separate Eliot poems.

We should feel lucky Grizabella was included as a character. If she hadn’t, then you might not get to have the treat of seeing Holtkamp.

— This article appeared on page F2 of the Albuquerque Journal

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