INTERVIEW – Chaz Wolcott – CATS – Broadway San Jose


The Princess is super busy with Princess-type things and found herself needing to delegate a few writing assignments out to Paxton, one of her three-legged wonder cats. Yes, one of them, she has two. As it turns out the musical CATS comes to San Jose next week and so Paxton took the initiative to reach out to one of the members of the cast. Admittedly, P was a bit nonplussed upon discovering that the show is cast with humans and not actual cats, but upon further reflection during his most recent 14 hour power nap, he decided he could support the choice for non-traditional casting in this instance, although he hopes no one feels duped for false advertising. What follows is Paxton’s interview with Chaz Wolcott, the human playing Mr. Mistoffelees on this tour. He would also like you to know that he typed it all by himself and you can send your commendations in the form of tuna or fresh turkey giblets c/o Princess Susannah.

Paxton:  Cats as you may or may not know, spend several hours a day grooming themselves to look their most awesome. How long do you spend grooming? 

Chaz: When you first join the show, it takes over an hour (sometimes two) to get all the specific little details of the make-up plots, which are copyrighted designs. But practice makes perfect, and I have the process down to about twenty minutes. You have a wig pinning to get your cat head on and then you slip into knee pads, unitard, tail, arm and leg warmers, and you are off! The whole process is helpful to character development, because you begin to only see yourself as a cat!

Paxton: Having only ever been a cat, that’s just weird to me, but I can understand certainly why you’d want to pretend to be one of us. We are, awesome. Cats spend a good 16-20 hours a day sleeping. I’m assuming there is no sleeping during the show, so with a busy touring schedule, how do you get sufficient cat-napping in?

Chaz: I try to sleep as much as I can, believe me. I have been on tour for six months. We have up to 8 shows per week, sometimes we travel in between those shows. In wonderful cities like San Jose, we spend an entire 8-show week in one place! We love those cities because we get to explore and see all the sights! Sometimes we are only in smaller towns for one night, but we love those as well, because that audience may be full of people who have never had a Broadway tour come through town! It can be very special and rewarding for the performers! We always sleep in lovely hotels every night. We travel on a bus, so you have to teach yourself how to sleep on a moving bus. We have egg-crate pads we lay on the floor to sleep on and pillows and blankets to help make it as comfortable as possible! You must get rest with a show as demanding as Cats

Paxton: I find warm clean laundry is also very comfortable, you might suggest getting that written into your next contract. I’m curious (don’t worry, they say curiosity killed the cat, but that’s just the liberal media) what’s the worst and best things about touring and acting for a living?

Chaz: Worst thing is definitely the inconsistency of work. After a contract is over, you usually have no idea what will be next. As someone who loves using a planner, that can be especially difficult for me. I rarely have a “plan” because in this industry, you must audition to book jobs and you can’t usually plan that far in advance! The best things far outweigh the bad things though! I’d say the best thing for me is seeing a child’s face light up in an audience. I can be having the worst day and I see a child’s smile and it makes me realize that I have a duty to pass on this art form to this next generation. That may sound deep, but its true! In this economy and in this world of technology, musical theatre is hard to come by. When I was little, I saw every Broadway tour that came through my hometown, and I wouldn’t trade those memories for anything, so I feel it is incredibly important to pass that on! 

Paxton: I recently fell off the side of the tub and into the shower as I tried to investigate the strange water phenomenon occurring behind the little curtain. It was uncharacteristically ungraceful, I’d feel better if you told me about the most embarrassing mishap while doing CATS?

Chaz: The most embarrassing thing I’ve ever encountered in Cats happened while I was crawling through the audience during a show. I knew that one of my friend’s moms was in the first row and had told me not to steal anything from her. (I had a tendency to walk away with people’s personal belongings – purses, drinks, candy, etc.) So, I went directly to her and took her purse! I walked away and thought the audience was laughing at me, only to look behind me and see that her husband was chasing me down to get her purse back! Literally, chasing me across the theatre. I lost all of my professional composure and just laughed out loud! It was so unexpected! 

Paxton: Nice. That’s way more embarrassing than falling into the tub. Thanks. Next question, 7 kittens out of a hat? Really? What kind of hat if you don’t mind me asking.

Chaz: A magician never reveals his secrets!

Paxton: Excellent answer. dexterously avoided. Very feline. Clearly you are a method actor. The correct answer however is, bowler hat which is classically chic and nostalgically timeless in style yet possesses a modern whimsical mystery about it. But, I digress. What’s harder, the choreography or getting that makeup off every night?

Chaz: I wish I could say the makeup, but I must admit that the choreography is much more challenging. The makeup comes off in about 5-10 minutes with a lot of cold cream and baby wipes! The choreography takes months to master and can always be corrected. The show is incredibly athletic, because all of the cats are always onstage being feline. There is no “break” when performing this show. Sometimes the feline movements (crawling, grooming etc.) we are doing in the background can be even more difficult on a sore body!  

Paxton: I always land on my feet, even though I only have three of them, and even when falling into a tub, so I’d probably rock the dance. I’ve been told my dance whiskers are magical. Speaking of magical, your character has “magical powers.” If you really could have a magical power, what would it be?

Chaz: If I could have a magical power, I think I’d be invisible. I often find myself thinking I’d like to be a fly on the wall, so invisibility would help out my curious nature! 

Paxton: I like to eat flies. They taste a lot like chicken. I’ll be careful not to eat you if you ever get that magical power. Just make sure you identify yourself. Almost nap time, a few more questions. If you weren’t an actor and couldn’t be an actual cat, what would you be doing for a living right now?

Chaz: The only other things that ever sparked my interest besides performing were photography, psychology and sports medicine. So, I guess I’d be a sports psychologist who doubled as a freelance photographer! Having said that, I am very content in my chosen life path and couldn’t really imagine myself doing anything else!

Paxton: Content is good. We like content. Okay, finally, why should people come see the show CATS when they could just come visit me instead, a real cat?

Chaz: CATS is one-of-a-kind. The show has a lasting effect on its audience. I saw the show when I was about 7 and told my mom I wanted to be Mr. Mistoffelees. I started taking ballet classes and working on the specific things that character did on stage. But, even if it doesn’t influence you to become a professional actor, it does something to you. It is magical; it has a wonderful message of acceptance; it is family friendly and kids are usually enthralled by the cats on stage; and it is an uplifting escape from the day-to-day routine we all have! The dancing is superb, the music is legendary, and there is a wide variety of styles of music and dance in the show! Everyone will find at least one cat that they relate to or that reminds them of someone they know. And if nothing else, watching 22 adult actors crawl around like cats for a few hours is sure to entertain!

Paxton:  That last sentence alone would be enough for me. If only I was allowed in the theatre and I wasn’t planning on sleeping and grooming myself all that week. I’m sure my human counterparts and adoring two-legged fans will enjoy it. It seems like exactly the kind of thing they’d like doing. Thank you for your time. I’d say break a leg, but being a three-legged cat, I’m a bit sensitive to that traditional phraseology. You understand, I’m sure.  Cats plays for just one week, December 27th, 2011-January 1st, 2012 at the San Jose Center for Performing Arts!

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