Each year a handful of cats from the Jellical tribe hope to win the feline lottery.

Each year a handful of cats from the Jellical tribe hope to win the feline lottery.

During the Jellical Ball, one cat from the special Jellical tribe is selected to go to Heavyside Layer (or heaven) where they'll get reincarnated and receive a fresh start on life.

This year's Jellical Ball will be held Friday at the Schwartz Center for the Arts when the Midnight Dreary Players of St. Thomas More Academy presents the musical "Cats."

It's raining felines

The Midnight Dreary Players couldn't have started off the year in grander fashion. The Players' production of "Cats" features the drama club's largest cast in history with 40-plus performers.

During rehearsal on Jan. 17, stage manager and senior Alicia Fox said it's been jaw-dropping to see the robust cast in action.

"There's one point when they're all stretching and they all look like cats," said Fox, 17, of Camden. "I'm getting chills right now because they look so cool."

Director Lorraine Steinhoff created roughly a dozen new felines for the musical since there was such an outpour of students who wanted to join the show, and she didn't have the heart to turn then all away. Nearly half the cast members will make their debut as a Midnight Dreary Player in "Cats."

Senior Cassi Wells (portraying Cassandra) is one of them.

"Drama is a really big thing here. Everybody knows it and everybody looks up to it," said Wells, 17, of Dover. "And I said I really want to be a part of it this year."

Senior Maddie Rogers (Jellylorum), however, has been in a number of Midnight Dreary Player productions. Yet Rogers said the amount of dancing required to perform in "Cats" is a new ballgame for her.

"It's a lot of fun," said Rogers, 17, of Rehoboth Beach. "I play a lot of sports, so to come back to this makes a good difference in my day."

Lead actress and senior Emma Skilton (Grizabella) added that she and her peers definitely break a sweat at rehearsals.

"A lot of times we call this the best workout you've ever had, because by the end we're panting," said the 17-year-old, of Middletown.

Glamour puss

When the felines hit the stage this weekend, some of the cast will appear in more modern outfits, as opposed to the traditional '80s-inspired costumes that "Cats" is known for.

"In the original Broadway production, everyone in the show wore a unitard with legwarmers. It was very '80s," said Steinoff. "The show was done that way with unitards and form-fitting costumes because they were really trying to show off every dancer in the show, treating it more like a ballet than a musical. Here I tried to give a little bit more realistic expectations with the costumes."

Hence, "there are some people that have costumes that are more humanized like tailcoats or a dress," she added. "When you're dealing with high school kids, you want every person to feel comfortable in what they're wearing. With the way that a lot of teenagers think about body image, I didn't want anyone to feel uncomfortable on stage. And I think the show's better for it because it does reflect a wider variety of styles and kinds of cats."


WHAT "Cats" the musical, presented by Midnight Dreary Players

WHEN 7 p.m., Friday; 2 p.m., Saturday

WHERE Schwartz Center for the Arts, 226 S. State St., Dover

COST $10

INFO Visit schwartzcenter.com or call 678-5152