WILMINGTON -- Walking in fresh faced and anxious, the cast of Cats gets ready for a big transformation.
The transformation involves changing their faces, their bodies, their very mindset into a feline state, as they prepare to open the Tony Award-winning musical on Thalian Hall's mainstage. The show follows each cat in its quest to be the one chosen to go to the Heavyside Layer.
"We're not real sure what that means," said actor Steve Gallian, "but it's a big event among the cats."
This big event takes a lot of preparation. Behind the scenes, it's a long process to find the face of a cat.
"Anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour and a half," said make-up artist Lance Howell, "I would say nothing less than 45 minutes."
So how does the cast even know where to start?
"We had a four hour workshop where everybody came in and the initial design was presented. They all got a hand out. They looked at what their face was supposed to look like after the fact," Howell explained. "And then we basically said go for it. Here's your makeup. Here are your sponges. Here are your colors. Let's see what kind of muddy mess you can make."
Other actors have a different kind of inspiration.
"I go home and I watch my cats and I look at their faces to see what they look like," said actor Newlin Parker, "and see what I can take from that and bring here."
Becoming a cat is one of the most challenging parts of putting on this big Broadway musical. After the intricate makeup comes the spandex and fur.
"It's a little intimidating coming from someone who's never put on a full unitard before," said actress Heather Dahlberg. "I think all of us have kind of had to ease into the unitard situation, but once you get it on, you do kind of get that cat thing going."
While not every actor has to brave the skin tight costumes, each outfit comes with its own obstacles.
"My costume is basically 75 pounds of carpet," said Gallian, "and it doesn't breathe well."
After laughing off attempts by the cast to turn me into a cat, I sat down to watch these felines in action. It was a performance so good I forgot who was underneath the paint, the fur, and that sassy cat-titude.
Reported by Heather Setzler