Malika protagonist at the Sistina of the Roman ‘Cats’ by Piparo

The singer, “what magic to turn into a cat, singing and acting are my two great passions”. On stage from 7 December to 22 January

I felt the need to make a new ‘Cats’ after 40 years of being performed“. Thus the iconic colony of humanized cats that made the history of the musical, this time will sing in Italian and dance on the ruins of the Eternal City. The adaptation of “Cats” signed by Maximus Romeo Piparo, which has obtained permission, never previously granted, to set the musical par excellence in the capital, with music by Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber and texts by Nobel Prize winner Thomas Stearns Eliot. 40 years after its Broadway debut (dated 1982), ‘Cats’ will be at the Sistina from December 7 and on stage the protagonist of the Italian production will be Malika Ayanein the role of Grizabella, the glamorous cat who will sing the timeless “Memory”.

A wonderful experience – says the singer-songwriter – spending two months in the theater with a show that has always been one of my favorites is truly a gift“. How did you prepare yourself to measure yourself with such an iconic musical? “Meanwhile I looked at all the available versions. I studied all the artists who preceded me and I looked for my way to make Grizabella vibrate. And then I went back to singing lessons, as I always do before an important engagement. To be able to maintain the same intensity in all the many envisaged performances”. Malika confesses that at the beginning she was worried about dealing with the texts readapted into Italian: “But Massimo (Romeo Piparo, ed.) worked on the adaptation with a fidelity unbelievable and allowed himself references to the Roman tradition, where there were too many British references”.

For the first time in the world, Massimo Romeo Piparo’s “Cats” obtained from the author the authorization to be set in Rome, in a hypothetical and futuristic “landfill” of works of art and archaeological finds, with the Colosseum on background. “It will be an opportunity – underlines Piparo – to reiterate once again to the whole world the cultural and artistic centrality of the Italian capital, its history and the charm it can give to purely Anglo-Saxon stories such as this one of the Jellicle cats narrated by TSEliot. The show – continues the director – has been adapted, remaining faithful as always to the musical score and to the spirit desired by its creators, and will have complete adherence to the taste of the Italian public. The cat-characters will all bring a style and a character very much in line with our habit of interacting with this animal-life partner. Anyone who wants to see the show can only see it in Rome”.

Together with Malika a large cast of artists and the live Orchestra conducted by Maestro Emanuele Friello. Choreographed by Billy Mitchell, acclaimed choreographer of London’s West End, current associate choreographer of AL Webber’s latest productions, from School of Rock to Cinderella. Music and dance, but also illusionism and magic with the special effects entrusted to the cat wizard Mr. Mistoffelees. “The show is truly magical. I spend hours in the theater watching all the rehearsals of my colleagues and I never get bored”, underlines Malika who has already worked with Piparo at the Sistina for ‘Evita’. “Now with him and at the Sistina I feel at home. And then I also love to deal with acting. Placing yourself at the disposal of a director and entering a character is something I really like. The idea of ​​turning into a cat all the evenings attract me a lot,” he adds. To then confess: “I’d like to constantly alternate between being a singer and an actress. But some director needs to call me. Indeed, I take the opportunity to launch an appeal: I’d also like to make a film”, she admits with a smile.

Reruns will go on by popular demand, until January 22nd. “There has been a huge request, I believe that Covid has brought back the desire for live experiences and also the determination not to postpone certain pleasures”. So this year no Sanremo? “Definitely not in the competition because there weren’t really the technical times. But who knows, if someone in the competition asks me to join him for a duet, why not?” smiles the artist who in the meantime is working on a new album : “I’ve written several songs and it will be a very heartfelt album. But I don’t know when it will be released yet because I want to do things right and calmly”.

On one special night of the year, all the Jellicle cats meet at the Jellicle Ball where Old Deuteronomy (Fabrizio Corucci), their wise and benevolent leader, chooses and announces which of them will be reborn to a new life as a Jellicle. But the cat party is disturbed by two events: the kidnapping of Old Deuteronomy and the appearance of Grizabella (Malika Ayane), the charming glamorous cat who, after leaving the Jellicles to explore the world, suffers exclusion and refusal of the herd and launches his desperate and melancholy appeal with the poignant “Memory”. There are still many unforgettable characters who populate the Musical, among others the old Gus (Fabrizio Angelini), once famous for his career as an actor and the flashy Rum Tum Tugger (Luca Giacomelli Ferrarini), who always wants to be at the center of the ‘Attention. And again, the brilliant Munkustrap (Sergio Giacomelli), who puts his courage at the disposal of all the members of the tribe, Mr. Mistoffelees (Pierpaolo Scida), the cat ‘in a tuxedo’ capable of performing amazing magic, Bustopher Jones (Jacopo Pelliccia ) and the pair of skilled petty thieves Mungojerrie (Simone Ragozzino) and Rumpleteazer (Rossella Lubrino).

Also in the Italian version of the show – which on Broadway recorded the world record for consecutive performances up to 2006, still remaining today among the top four most represented musicals in history – there are spectacular sets and breathtaking choreography: on stage the audience will see like real felines the artists, all subjected to special and very long make-up sessions, in collaboration with Mac Cosmetics, for a surprisingly realistic metamorphosis into a triumph of meows, black noses, moustaches, long tails and plush paws.

The musical direction of the live Orchestra, as well as the programming of the original sounds of “Cats”, are entrusted to Maestro Emanuele Friello, director of all the great successes signed by Piparo, who includes militancy in his “youth” curriculum of the original ‘Cats’ Orchestra in London’s West End. The scenes – in a suggestive Roman archaeological setting – are by Teresa Caruso, who has also been a stable presence in Piparo’s team for over ten years, like the costume designer Cecilia Betona who has been entrusted with the delicate task of supervising the entire look of the realistic transformation , from human to feline, of the cast.

“Cats” by Andrew Lloyd Webber is one of the most famous Musicals in the world: it has broken all records for longevity, viewers and collections. It has been seen by over 73 million people and captivated audiences in over 300 cities around the world. The plot of the Musical is based on the book by Thomas Stearns Eliot entitled “Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats”, a collection of extravagant and amusing poems in which cats are the protagonists. In this work, the author focuses on feline behavior and psychology, creating a real loving tribute to cats of all types, from young to old, from the most cheerful to wild and aggressive ones. The poems were written in 1930 and signed by Eliot with the pseudonym “Old Possum” (Old Opossum): perfect for an audience of large and small readers, they were then published in 1939, with the cover illustrated by Eliot himself.

Produced by veteran Cameron Mackintosh and Sir ALWebber’s Company, The Really Useful Group, “Cats,” after a successful year in London’s West End, made its Broadway debut in 1982. The song “Memory” is a true classic, especially for the recordings of Elaine Paige and Barbra Streisand: on the notes of a poignant melody, the cat Grizabella reflects on her loneliness, thinking back to her lost youth and the happiness of past days, but also affirms her desire and hope to start a new life . The song has been recorded by 150 different artists including Celine Dion, Luciano Pavarotti, Placido Domingo, José Carreras, Milva, Ute Lemper, Susan Boyle and in the recent 2019 film by Jennifer Hudson.