Three dozen people are in the cast of the first revival of Cats, now playing at the Neil Simon Theatre on Broadway. Most of the performers are young, and their stories are as old as Broadway and as new as the latest trend on Twitter. In this series, we’ll meet some of the savvy, accomplished, and all-around remarkable performers behind the makeup.
Cats Character: Jennyanydots. “She’s a tap-dancing and motherly cat who’s fat and lazy during the day.”
Parallels? “Not really. I probably have some motherly qualities, but I’m not lazy like Jenny.”
Hometown: Edmond, Oklahoma
Show That Made Her Want to Be a Performer: “I saw Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat at age 6, which was my first exposure to the world of musical theater. But I didn’t even know you could do it as a profession until I was 15.”
Degree: Dropped out of the University of Oklahoma
First Professional Performance: The Music Man, one of five shows one summer at the Lyric Theater of Oklahoma when she was 16. “I was paid $92.35 a week.”
Previous Broadway Shows: Dames at Sea, On the Town
Favorite Inspirational Quote: “My life is my message.” — Mahatma Gandhi
Role She Most Wants to Play: “I’d love to do Crazy for You. I did it in summer stock and I’d love to do it again and do [the lead].”
Eloise Kropp sees few parallels between her life and her character in Cats, but she feels much in common with her previous Broadway role in Dames at Sea, a spoof of 1930s musicals in which she played Ruby, a small-town girl who makes it big on Broadway on the same day she arrives in New York. Stardom hasn’t been quite as instantaneous for Kropp. Yes, she moved to New York at the age of 20, dropping out of school, because she was hired for the cast of Tuck Everlasting — but then that Broadway show was delayed for years. Yes, she landed that starring role in Dames at Sea, but it ran only a couple of months.
“I was very naïve when I moved here. I did not understand how difficult it is to get a job. Theater is so fleeting and so up and down. It made me realize how much you need a support system outside of the theater and have hobbies.” Her hobbies include reading, yoga, rock climbing and writing. Although she began tap-dancing at the age of 8, she was not being steered toward stardom. “My mother just wanted to have 45 minutes to herself at the grocery store, and she found a studio near the store.”
To get inspiration for her new role, Kropp has looked at a veritable pride of cat videos. “I’m trying to find the essence of a cat — how the back of their neck is very important to them, and how people always say that a cat has a sixth sense. I’m figuring out how to show that sixth sense.” She has stayed away from the real thing, however. “I don’t really like cats. I am a dog lover all the way.” (Many of the Cats cast members, in fact, admit to preferring dogs.)