Thanks to everyone who came out last night! We were blessed to have Loni Ackerman join us in the screening room to talk about her transformation into Grizabella in CATS (and to screen her 1989 appearance on Reading Rainbow). But I also heard from another former Grizabella who wasn’t able to join us — the lovely and talented Anastasia Lange, who generously answered a few of my questions about her own CATS experience. Read on…
What to you miss the most about being Grizabella? And what do you miss the least?
I definitely miss singing that glorious song. I have never experienced an audience reaction like the one evoked by “Memory”. It strikes a chord with people like few other songs do. I definitely do NOT miss that makeup. It never really comes off. I have a sort of grey haze in every photograph of me from 2009.
Did you approach Grizabella as a non-human character portrayed as a human , or as a human character portrayed as an animal? (I know that’s sort of like asking, “is a zebra white with black stripes, or black with white stripes?” but I’m curious about your approach as an actor.)
Grizabella, for me, was always a completely human character who happened to take on a feline form. It is essential that the audience connect with her emotionally, therefore they must really identify with her. The feline mannerisms are just a layer. She is the soul of every woman who has ever aged a day or ever held on to a longing for the past.
I’ve read some of your other interview answers about being such a relatively young actor to take on this role. It’s kind of lucky to have a character that you can age into, as opposed to aging out of. Do you hope to return to it again when you’re older?
After two years with the show, I was very sad to leave the character behind. My only solace was knowing that I can play her for, literally, decades to come. I can’t wait to revisit her when I have greater insight into where she is in life. I won’t have to act so much.
The Celine Dion version of “Memory” (which you’ve cited as your favorite) is awesome, and I’d love to see Celine (now) actually play the role. Will you share some of your dream-team celebrity casting suggestions for CATS?
Yes, Celine is in as Griz. I would love to see Morgan Freeman as Old Deuteronomy. I have no idea if he can sing a note, but his demeanor is so perfect. And how about Antonio Banderas as Rum Tum Tugger. This production is going to cost a fortune…