CATS is back in Vancouver, in a version spearheaded by Burnaby choreographer Ken Overbey.
Re-emerging from the shadows are the felines -- sly, claws out, these CATS are a notorious bunch. And they are young.
The Children’s Theatre of Richmond (CTORA) is bringing the latest rendition of Broadway’s classic, CATS: The Young Actors Edition, to PAL Studios in Vancouver from July 29 to Aug. 7.
Spearheading this musical is Ken Overbey, a resident from Burnaby who has been choreographing these cats’ every move.
Overbey began his entertainment career a couple decades ago at Disneyland in the United States as a dancer. Six years and multiple cross-country trips later, he switched to musical theatre and choreography, and toured the world before settling into Burnaby five years ago.
Many people dream of a glamourous life in the entertainment industry -- singing, dancing and acting. Overbey brought those dreams to fruition and made them into a career.
“Well, I actually didn't go to school for dance," he said. "I went to be a lawyer, have a political science degree. But my parents said, 'If you're going to university, take really different electives.' That I did. I took fencing and archery and dance."
For the now-seasoned choreographer, it didn’t end there.
“I ended up loving dance and just kept taking more and more classes. I got a job at Disneyland, in Anaheim, California with the dance group. Working there, the stronger you were in dance, the higher you got paid. So I kept taking dance classes. And then it just became something that I ended up loving doing. And I feel like I'm never working because it's my passion and and as time went on, I just progressed into doing choreography, and I really loved doing choreography.”
Overbey had a passion for storytelling, and he used multiple elements like music, dance, costumes together to bring stories to life.
Although Burnaby has a strong base for Hollywood North film and TV productions, the musical theatre scene itself is not as big. “I'm very lucky because I have a group of other authors that I work with; director Mark Carter and musical director Jerry Hoffman. And I love that group. But I would love to have a company, a stable company that actually could exist right in Burnaby.
He would like to see the community foster young musical talent in Burnaby.
"Burnaby used to have Footlight company that was the locals at the Shadbolt, and that's since gone. But I would love for that to come back and, and to have a company for that city for you, and and other people who still want to perform and they can do so at home."
Overbey has an extensive filmography and discography including choreography for Million Dollar Quartet at Theatre Calgary, Silence! The Musical and Annie, among many others.
His latest project with the young actors is the rendition of CATS in PAL Studios Vancouver, opening on the July 29.
In contrast to his usual projects, involving choreography for the adults, he has been investing a considerable amount of time on this project working with the child actors.
“Usually with the children," he said. "They come in, and they're intent to listen, but then they get a little bit lacks, whereas adults, you pretty much have their focus the whole time. But that's on you to keep their focus for the young people, right, and you show them what the end game is and how strong they can be."
The Young Actors edition is a shorter, one-hour long, version of the original CATS, with added fun and festivity in the performance.
“Just seeing the joy of them coming in every day and working hard to get it. This is their summer, their free time. And they're here, you know, on time every day to learn. That's because they really want to do a good job. It’s going to be a very good show, for sure."
Overbey is pinning high hopes on the opening day. He is confident that the show will go well throughout, and hoping that the audience leave the show happy.
For the choreographer, CATS is not the last project. He is heading out to San Fransisco Opera to shadow another choreographer after CATS wraps up. He is in talks with his team to look into the upcoming projects, as well as having some film and television projects in the pipeline.
As a strong ally of the arts, Overbey encourages local folks, both young people and adults, to get to the local shows and volunteer to foster the arts.
CATS: The Young Actors Edition
Where: PAL Studios Vancouver
When: July 29th to August 7th
Tickets: $20.50 - $27.50+; more info available at ctora.ca