Josh Piterman doesn’t have any dance training, other than during his musical theatre degree at Ballarat. Yet, he is performing in a musical renowned for its dancing: CATS.
“I’m an actor. The thing I am really bringing to the role is the acting,” said Piterman.
However, he can dance.
“I’ve danced. I’d never call myself a dancer, but in Drowsy Chaperone I had to cover Rohan Browne – that was pretty daunting and intimidating!” Piterman commented.
Piterman managed to get to the final week of The Drowsy Chaperone before having to cover for Browne, but as Piterman explained, thankfully taking over the role halfway through the show, which meant he didn’t need to do all the intricate tap breaks.
Piterman has played numerous leading roles in musicals such (West Side Story, Kismet, Hairspray) but says CATS is the first musical since The Drowsy Chaperone where he’s really had to dance and not just “move”. And he’s loving it.
“I’m having a really good time. I haven’t done musical stuff like this in a long time … not just dancing, but making things so much in the body and having a real sense of that.”
Earlier this year Piterman wowed audiences as Eddie in Blood Brothers. He says playing the part of a child felt natural. Moving around the stage like a cat, however, he says is not natural, although Piterman suggests maybe after six months of performing in CATS it might become natural!
To prepare for his role as Bustopher Jones/Gus, Piterman practised being a cat at home, hissing at his wife, jumping onto the bed and confusing his dogs with his feline-like behaviour. Piterman is quick to admit he gets very invested in everything he does!
This production of CATS is the new London Palladium version, featuring a number of exciting changes to the show. Piterman saw the original version of the musical so many years ago that he doesn’t recall too many details. He was offered the opportunity to watch archival footage of the show but declined, as he felt he needed to own the role and make it his. Thankfully he’s been given the freedom and space to do this.
“I have to create my own thing otherwise I don’t feel I have ownership,” explained Piterman.
For fans of CATS, there will be some new features to this latest production – new choreography and new songs.
“My character, Gus, does a flashback to his past as a leading man and does this whole Growltiger scene that’s totally new from the London Palladium version.”
There is also a very different Rum Tum Tugger. He’s a much more updated, hip-hopping cat.
“Dan Assetta who is playing Rum Tum Tugger – he’s phenomenal … he’s a freak! He’s a serious triple threat and I reckon that name, in the next decade or so, is really going to get out there. He’s exceptional and people who like a bit of hip hop, younger audiences, are really going to love it. An older audience will appreciate just the sheer spectacle of what he’s created. He’s such a wonderful dancer,” said Piterman, clearly impressed.
Piterman continued, singing the praises of Jason Wasley as Old Deuteronomy, saying audiences will be really moved by his performance, Matt MacFarlane who delivers a very powerful performance as Munkustrap and then Amy Berrisford who he says, “Honestly, I think she’s 50% cat because no one should be that felinic!”
And then of course there is Delta Goodrem – Australia’s new Grizabella.
“She’s extraordinary!” exclaimed Piterman. “Delta is just one of the group and she loves being one of the cast. She’s a really, really good actress … an undeniably good actress … and her voice is just brilliant. She sings the hell out of ‘Memory’.”
CATS has already played in Auckland, Sydney and Hobart to rave reviews and now it’s Melbourne’s turn to experience this latest version of this popular musical before the tour continues to Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth.
CATS is now playing at The Regent Theatre.