Tommy Mann, Jr.
The Orange Leader
Nederland native Matthew Taylor is living his dream as an entertainer, and that dream turned reality will find him in the spotlight of the national touring production of “CATS” at the Lutcher Theater next week.
Taylor, 24, portrays the mesmerizing character of “Rum Tum Tugger” of the Broadway smash hit “CATS.” The Lutcher Theater welcomes the cast and crew of this masterpiece of song and dance to its stage at 7:30 p.m., Thursday, Jan. 13, and Friday, Jan. 14.
Tickets are available for Thursday’s performance for $35 - $65 each, while Friday’s performance is all but sold out. Patrons may purchase tickets online at www.lutcher.org or by calling 409-886-5535 or pick them up at the box office at 707 Main in downtown Orange.
Taylor said he is thrilled to be performing so close to his hometown of Nederland this week, and never expected it would happen with this production.
“My grandma (Diana Schumacher) was so upset that ‘CATS’ wasn’t coming to the area,” Taylor said in a telephone interview. “So, she decided to get involved.”
On Nov. 2, 2010, Jim Clark, managing director of the Lutcher Theater, received a call from Diana Schumacher of Nederland, Texas, informing him that her grandson had been cast in the role of “Rum Tum Tugger” in the National Tour of “CATS.” Coincidentally, the Lutcher Theater is in the midst of its biggest Broadway season ever and had already placed a tentative hold date for a “CATS” performance in February 2011, but was unsure if the production company would add another show.
Lutcher Staff began to inquire about local residents’ interest in the show through the Lutcher’s Facebook page. Schumacher and Matt’s mother, Stacie Taylor, who both attend Lutcher performances, got their friends to “friend” the Lutcher Facebook page. Everyone was asking the Lutcher to bring “CATS” to the Lutcher and guaranteed a large turn-out from the Golden Triangle. A survey was sent to all of the 8,500 Lutcher patron e-mails to see if there was interest. Obviously there was.
Taylor said he started singing when he was just a young child and music was a big part of his family life as his mother was always singing.
“My mom loved ‘CATS’, and I hated ‘CATS’ when I was young,” Taylor said laughing. “I really wasn’t interested in musicals until I hit high school and met this girl. I followed her to an audition call and got cast for a part, and the rest, as they say, is history.”
Taylor credits his high school music instructor, Renee Kloes, for inspiring him and guiding him into this field.
“She’s the one who told me this could be done, that I could do this,” he said. “My first musical I saw was a performance of the ‘Scarlet Pimpernel’ at the Lutcher Theater where she had brought our class.”
Even though Kloes provided the inspiration, it was his mother and grandmother who provided the determination and support.
My grandmother and mom worked really hard to make sure I was well rounded in everything,” Taylor explained “I played every sport imaginable, but I also learned how to cook, to do laundry, eat properly and all sorts of stuff.”
Taylor graduated with a Bachelor degree in music from Westminster Choir College in Princeton, NJ, and, instead of pursuing a career in music, opted to become and educator.
“I taught in Harlingen, Texas for one year as a choir teacher, but realized I wasn’t ready to settle down yet,” Taylor said. “So, I moved back to New York and within one month I got the part in ‘CATS.’ It was just the right place at the right time.”
The national tour of “CATS” is closing in on its 30th anniversary, holding its place as the longest continuously touring Broadway musical in history.
On May 11, 1981, “CATS” opened at the New London Theater in the West End. Eight years later it celebrated its first important milestone: after 3,358 performances “CATS” became the longest running musical in the history of British theater. “CATS” played its final performance on its 21st birthday, May 11, 2002.
“CATS” opened on Broadway Oct. 7, 1982 at the Winter Garden Theatre in New York City and continued to live up to its motto “Now and Forever.” On June 19, 1997, “CATS” became the longest running musical on Broadway. It ended its 18 year run on Sept. 10, 2000 with 7,485 performances. That record was broken by “The Phantom of the Opera” on Jan. 9, 2006.
Taylor got the part in August, signed his contract in September and started performing in mid-October as the production opened in St. Louis. Taylor and the rest of the cast just returned from Hawaii where they performed eight shows in a week, including five in one weekend.
“That kind of schedule is grueling, but it’s fun too,” he said with a laugh. “Yeah, five shows in one weekend. No problem. I’ll just sleep when I’m dead.”
Taylor is looking forward to being home this week and introducing his friends in the cast to his family and the culture of Southeast Texas and Southwest Louisiana.
“My grandfather is going to cook barbecue for the entire cast before the shows this week,” Taylor continued. “The cast always gets excited whenever we get to hang out with family. And I’m going to take them out to the Texas Longhorn too for some line dancing and two-steppin’ since most of them have never done that. It’s great to be home.”
Tommy Mann Jr. is a reporter for The Orange Leader. He can be reached at 409-883-3571, Ext. 2619 or firstname.lastname@example.org