The preparations are mighty for Avalon Youth Theatre’s top-notch production of the musical ‘Cats’, which it will perform in February half term at Wadebridge School.

Following the success of last year’s musical of Annie, the troupe began rehearsing the ambitious musical in the summer.

Gemma Crook, who is directing the production with her daughter Liv Crook as choreographer, says:

“We are really going for it this year. Cats has a lot of fantastic music and dancing, but they’re complicated to learn. The kids have been putting their all into rehearsals, and we know this will be a stunning production.

“We chose Cats because it is totally different from our usual productions. This show is sung all the way through with virtually no spoken dialog and the full cast is on stage a lot of the time. The music and movements are challenging but the group have embraced it fully.

“We guarantee our audiences a really stellar experience.”

A well-loved Broadway and West End favourite, Cats features a collection of poems by British-born American author T. S. Elliot, set to music by Andrew Lloyd Webber. The poems introduce a range of different cat characters, beautifully illustrated in the lyrics and music. There’s Jennyanydots, who sits quietly all day, but at night builds a better world for the mice and cockroaches; Bustopher Jones, the gourmand cat-about-town; smash-and-grab artists Mungojerrie and Rumpleteazer; and the rock n’ roll rapscallion Rum Tum Tugger, who’s always on the wrong side of every door.

Lloyd Webber’s music takes us through a variety of musical genres, from rock n’roll to classical to jazz, and forges some West End blockbusters; the most memorable is the haunting aria “Memory”. With so much singing involved it has been the talents and hard work from musical director Amy Sapwell that has helped the children bring their characters to life through their songs.

The costume team, led by committee members Jo Pope and Sharon Needham, have been working hard to produce the elaborate costumes, works of art in themselves.

Jo says: “I started with a mood book, and put together ideas from the original production. I wanted to capture the essence of the different cats. It has been great fun getting to know them and trying to recreate distinguishable feline characters. Hopefully you’ll pick your favourite!”

Sharon Needham has made fabulous wigs and tails for each of the 34 performers. “They reflect the character of each cat,” she says. “For instance, Bustopher Jones, the ‘cat about town’, is very well groomed, whereas the Rum Tum Tugger is more dishevelled. My house was covered in tufts of faux fur for weeks.”

Avalon chairman Emma Battle says: “Children wait for years to be in Avalon, and we’ve got a waiting list as long as my arm. It isn’t just about the theatre: it’s about building skills, making friendships, and working together as a team. We’ve been so impressed with the children’s hard work for Cats, and we know we’ve got a really fabulous productions for the audience to enjoy.”

Gemma says: “This year, for the first time, we have joined the Cornwall Drama Association and entered our production of ‘Cats’ into the CDA Theatre Festival in which awards are given for production, costumes, lighting among others. We’re excited to be competing (in a friendly way) alongside some of Cornwall’s other excellent amateur drama associations.”

Cats will be held at Wadebridge School from Wednesday February 19 - Saturday February 22, with evening performances at 7.30pm and a Saturday matinee at 2pm. Tickets are £10 for adults, £5 for children 16 and under, and £25 for a family ticket of two adults, two children. Tickets are available online through Cornish Riviera Box Office (CRBO), www.crbo.co.uk/avalon, or by calling 01726 879500.