Elmhurst native leaps at chance to star in Chicago-bound 'Cats' tour

  • Elmhurst native Lexie Plath, center with arm raised, stars as Bombalurina in "Cats." The national tour of Andrew Lloyd Webber's Tony Award-winning musical comes to the James M. Nederlander Theatre in Chicago from Tuesday, July 16, to Sunday, Aug. 4.

    Elmhurst native Lexie Plath, center with arm raised, stars as Bombalurina in "Cats." The national tour of Andrew Lloyd Webber's Tony Award-winning musical comes to the James M. Nederlander Theatre in Chicago from Tuesday, July 16, to Sunday, Aug. 4. Courtesy of Matthew Murphy

 
 
Posted7/15/2019 6:00 AM

As a kid, Lexie Plath couldn't get enough of the 1981 global musical blockbuster "Cats." So it's kismet that the Elmhurst native is starring in the first national "Cats" tour following its 2016 Broadway revival.

"It's pretty much a dream come true," Plath said.

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"Cats" returns to Chicago for a three-week run at the James M. Nederlander Theatre starting Tuesday, July 16. The occasion allows Plath to reconnect with her Midwestern roots in Illinois and Wisconsin.

"I'm pretty sure almost everyone I've ever met will be coming to see the show at some point," joked Plath, highlighting that the Windy City stop is "the closest that we get to all of my family."

Elmhurst native Lexie Plath stars in the national tour of "Cats."
Elmhurst native Lexie Plath stars in the national tour of "Cats."

Plath's first exposure to "Cats" was seeing a national tour in Milwaukee at the age of 7. She then repeatedly listened to its cast album and watched the 1998 TV version.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"I had a VHS copy and I'm pretty sure I wore out the tape," Plath said. "Most little girls growing up wanted to be Victoria, the white cat, but I always wanted to be Bombalurina."

Lucky for Plath, she got that role in "Cats." She does not get her own character song, but the multicolored kitty with a spiked collar does get loads of stage time dishing out gossip about other cats, including the pompous Bustopher Jones and faded "glamour cat" Grizabella, who sings the hit song "Memory."

Thanks to its longevity, "Cats" has been an easy punchline in everything from TV's "Saturday Night Live" to John Guare's play "Six Degrees of Separation." But few remember how daring it was for British composer Andrew Lloyd Webber and choreographer Gillian Lynne to create an entire dance show inspired by poems from T.S. Eliot's "Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats."

The national tour of "Cats," Andrew Lloyd Webber's Tony Award-winning musical, comes to the James M. Nederlander Theatre in Chicago from Tuesday, July 16, to Sunday, Aug. 4.
The national tour of "Cats," Andrew Lloyd Webber's Tony Award-winning musical, comes to the James M. Nederlander Theatre in Chicago from Tuesday, July 16, to Sunday, Aug. 4. - Courtesy of Matthew Murphy
                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"It's a pop-culture phenomenon," Plath said. "Everywhere I go, people know what 'Cats' is."

"Cats" will face another test later this year via a new film version helmed by Academy Award-winning director Tom Hooper ("The King's Speech," "Les Misérables"). The cast includes Jennifer Hudson as Grizabella, James Corden as Bustopher Jones and Taylor Swift as Bombalurina.

"I don't know all the details, but I think they've altered her a little bit for the movie," Plath said. "We're all excited to see how it is on film and to see all of the technology and differences from our show."

• • •

"Cats"

Location: James M. Nederlander Theatre, 24 W. Randolph St., Chicago, (800) 775-2000 or broadwayinchicago.com

Showtimes: 7:30 p.m. Tuesday through Friday (also Sunday, July 21), 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday (also Wednesday, July 24 and 31); from Tuesday, July 16, through Sunday, Aug. 4

Tickets: $26.50-$146.50

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