Local entertainer puts unique spin on ‘Cats’

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Eddie Henry Jr. is excited to be returning to his hometown and showcasing his talent in the musical, “Cats.”

“This production is beautiful,” Henry said. “The sets are gorgeous and it’s a moving piece of work that takes you back to your youth. The theme of the show is remembering where you were and what you are going to become.”

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CATS CAST—Eddie Henry, middle blue, performs with “Cats” cast. (Photo by Patti Brahim).

The production, which was composed by Andrew Lloyd Webber, tells the story of the Jellicle tribe of cats that gather together to choose which one among them will transcend to Heaven and begin a new life.

It is being presented by the Pittsburgh Musical Theater. The Pittsburgh Musical Theater is a non-profit, Pittsburgh-based company that produces high-quality musical theater at affordable prices.

The production will run at the Byham Theater, 101 Sixth St., from now until Feb. 6.

“Cats” is based on author T.S. Eliot’s 1939 novel, “Old Possum Book of Practical Cats,” which was one of Webber’s favorite books as a child.

Since its Broadway opening in 1982, “Cats” has run for 21 years in London and 18 on Broadway. It has won numerous awards including the Laurence Olivier Award for Best Musical and three Tony Awards. It has been translated into more than 20 languages. “Cats” was turned into a made-for-TV movie in 1998.

Henry, 28, is playing the character of The Rum Tum Tugger, a “ladies man” cat who has a serious and sexual nature.

“I’ve always wanted to be a rocker and be the cool cat and now I get the chance to do that in this production,” he laughed. “I was a bit frightened of doing the role but when I put that costume on, I am transformed into the role.”

Henry said he likened his portrayal of The Rum Tum Tugger to James Brown and Lenny Kravitz.

“Vocally I wanted to give Rum Tum Tugger a colorful voice and I wanted to find an edge to his voice. I’ve added my pop and R& B feel to the character and I try to mix that with rock,” he said.

Henry first got bitten by the theater bug as a child when he used to watch musicals put on by the Pittsburgh CLO Academy.

“I saw kids my own age and I saw adults doing great things and I said that was what I wanted to do. That was part of my training,” Henry recalled.

After graduating from West Allegheny High School in 2000, he went on to earn his BSA in musical theater at the University of Cincinnati Conservatory of Music.

After cutting his chops in the musicals “Rent” and “Pearlie,” Henry moved to California to make a name for himself in theater. While there, he landed a contract with Disney Entertainment and performed in shows at Disneyland.

He worked with Disney for four years before landing a job in Hong Kong performing in a festival version of the “Lion King” as Simba. Following that he returned to Pittsburgh to attend Point Park University and obtain a master’s degree in entertainment management. He graduated in December of 2010.

In addition to Henry, the production is filled with homegrown talent provided by students at the Richard E. Raugh Conservatory.

The Richard E. Raugh Conservatory is made up of professional performers, directors, choreographers and educators. The school teaches its students how to successfully combine dancing, voice and acting.

The conservatory has a professional company that performs Broadway shows at the Byham Theater. Although Equity and non Equity actors perform in the show, local talent is given precedence.

The conservatory’s next production is “Seussical,” which will run from March 24 to April 3.

(For Tickets to “Cats” visit http://www.pgharts.org or call 412-456-6666.)

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