The Patriot Player’s latest production, CATS: The Musical, which opened this past weekend, largely owes its success to guest director and choreographer Dr. Kacy Crabtree.
Crabtree is a professional choreographer who lives and works in Banner Elk, NC. For the past two decades, she has been doing consulting work for professional theaters and arts businesses around the Southeast. Over the last few months, Crabtree worked closely with the Patriot Players to produce what she deems a “monumental show.”
According to Artistic Director Devin Pendleton, most theater companies bring in guest directors only for a weekend or two especially if the director is from out of town. For CATS, Crabtree has completely dispelled that model as she has been staying in Collinsville every weekend for rehearsals for the past month and coming in for additional rehearsal times since March.
Crabtree says she is devoting so much of her time to this one show for three main reasons: the show demands it, the cast deserves it, and the Martinsville Henry County area has a special place in her heart.
As a native to the area, Crabtree got her start in theater with the former Martinsville Playmakers. She still remembers the first show she choreographed at Fieldale-Collinsville High School, You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown. Her dance education and training took place at the Ray Hollingsworth Studio of Dance. Crabtree says that producing theater and dance in Martinsville is a reward in and of itself.
“It’s nice to be home and to give something back to the community that gave so much to me as a person and an emerging professional at the time,” says Crabtree.
With the size and scope of this particular production, giving back to Martinsville and Henry County meant giving so much more than a few days of guest direction and choreography. Taking on one of Broadway’s more technically challenging shows on a limited budget required her to stretch and challenge herself in new ways as an artist.
“When Devin first told me that he wanted to do CATS I was skeptical. Having done the show before, I do not know a show equal to CATS in complexity, except possibly Lion King,” says Crabtree, “The lighting, the dance and movement, the acting and singing, and other technical theater aspects bring multiple layers of artistry to the show – all of which demand top quality from the cast and crew.”
Crabtree found, though, that the Patriot Players were up for the challenge. She says she was impressed with the way the cast and crew rallied together as a team – volunteering hours of their time to fill roles that in professional theater would be full-time paid positions. She says the performers soaked in the new concepts that this show required them to learn – such as being a cat and constantly moving and singing for two hours each performance. Together, everyone put in hundreds of unpaid hours learning, designing, and perfecting the performance.
Crabtree says the Patriot Players deserve the level of commitment that she has given them because “they are such hard workers who care so much about doing good work to make good theater. It makes me want to do my best for them.”
For the casts and crew, the feeling is mutual.
One of the actors, Anna Beach, says “she’s been wonderful. It takes a lot of guts to bring something this big to a town this small, but Dr. Kacy has what it takes.”
Artistic Director Devin Pendleton echoes the sentiment, “Despite the challenge of having a full-time job over three hours away and the challenge that CATS is a demanding show, Dr. Crabtree’s herculean efforts brought professional-quality theater to Martinsville. Having her as is a treat for the Patriot Players and for the community we are giving this show to.”
CATS is based on T.S. Elliot’s “Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats,” which follows a tribe of cats - each with a unique tale to tell. Around songs, whimsies, and reunions, the group’s leader must select one cat to transcend to the Heaviside Layer. The final performances of CATS are April 28 and 29 at 7 p.m. and April 30 at 2 p.m. Tickets are $15 in advance or $20 at the door. They can be purchased at phccpatriotplayers.com/tickets, at the PHCC switchboard in West Hall, or at the visitor’s center in downtown Martinsville.