Jennifer Kemps at ages 8 and 40.

Meet the Denver Center’s own crazy ‘Cats’ lady


The company of ‘Cats’ on-Broadway. Photo by Matthew Murphy.

‘This musical will inspire you to be adventurous and take risks’

Jennifer Kemps at ages 8 and 40.

Jennifer Kemps at ages 8 and 40.

The first musical I ever saw in New York City was Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Cats. I was 8 years old, and my mom had read us the poems over and over again from T.S. Eliot’s “Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats.” This was to be my first musical experience. My family and I made the special trip in from New Jersey to the Winter Garden Theatre. At age 40 today, I wish I could go back and tell my 8-year-old self how extraordinary this matinee would be. The following is the letter I would write.

Dear Jennifer (age 8),

I know you are excited! You are about to watch the most magical Jellicle Ball with cats of all shapes, sizes and colors. I know Mom has told you that the cats will come out in the audience. Don’t be afraid; they won’t touch you. The lights will go out in the theatre and you will be transported to the junkyard where the cats live and play. Cat eyes will glow from all around the stage and you’ll lean forward in your seat waiting with enthusiasm. Each cat will teach you a valuable lesson if you listen closely.

      • Asparagus “Gus” – There is a thrill to being the center of attention; embrace that moment as it will fade.
      • Jennyanydots – Nobody will call you Jenny, let alone Jenny-any-dots.
      • Bustopher Jones – Never turn down free food.
      • Grizabella – It will get lonely sometimes, but you’ll come out stronger on the other side.
      • Macavity – Being peculiar and unique is a good thing!
      • Skimbleshanks – It’s important to have a good work ethic and let people rely on you.
      • Mr. Mistoffelees – There is always magic around you.
      • Mungojerrie / Rumpleteazer – Own up to your actions regardless of whether there are others to blame.
      • Old Deuteronomy – You become wiser with age, and also slower.
      • Rum Tum Tugger – Be carefree and laid back; don’t take life too seriously.

This musical will inspire you to be adventurous and take risks. You’ll learn to be aware of your surroundings, and you’ll know when to be the center of attention or to sit back with a curious spirit and observe. You’ll learn how to live in the moment and enjoy the simple joys around you. You’ll be kind and loving to animals and will have cats of your own someday. Don’t get discouraged by obstacles or challenges; you will always land on your feet.

With love,

Jennifer (age 40)

The uniqueness of this musical — from the costumes to the set and lights — will ground you and let you experience life as a cat. I walked away with such awe and appreciation for live theatre that it has become the one constant in my life. Take a moment to observe and respect all the cats on stage. There is a special characteristic to each as they portray the feline species. And after 120 minutes, I hope you arch your back, stretch your claws and have more strut in your step.

Jennifer Kemps. CatsJennifer Kemps is the Denver Center for the Performing Arts’ former group sales manager and a self-avowed ‘Cats’ fanatic. She is now the Special Events Coordinator at Ralston House in Arvada. Ralston House is a non-profit agency that provides a friendly and safe place for child and teen survivors of abuse to tell their stories and begin the healing process.

Online bonus: Five kitty-sized facts about Cats


Mamie Parris as Grizabella. Photo by Matthew Murphy.

Ever since that first performance in May 1981 in London, Cats has become one of the most successful musicals ever written. Did you know…

  • Cats was inspired by “Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats” by T.S. Eliot, a series of poems about cats published in 1939. He titled it “Possum” because it was his alias among friends.
  • Cats premiered on Broadway in 1982 and won seven 1983 Tony Awards, including Best Musical and Best Original Score.
  • Cats ran for 18 years on Broadway, making it the fourth-longest-running shows in Broadway history.
  • A screen adaptation of Cats is currently in the production, helmed by Oscar winner Tom Hooper.
  • Over 150 artists ranging from Barry Manilow to Joni Mitchell have recorded the show’s hit song, “Memory.”
  • Betty Buckley (who starred in the Denver engagement of Hello, Dolly!) won the 1983 Tony Award for Best Featured Actress in a Musical for her role as Grizabella in the original Broadway production of Cats.

Videos: Cast of Xanadu rolls into Mile High Stadium and Pepsi Center

Cats: Ticket information

  • Written by: Andrew Lloyd Webber
  • Director: Trevor Nunn
  • Choreographer: Andy Blankenbuehler
  • When: April 24-28
  • ASL-interpreted, Audio-described and Open-captioned performance: 2 p.m. April 27
  • Where: Buell Theatre, Denver Performing Arts Complex
  • Information: Call 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE
  • Groups: Call 800-641-1222

More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

Company of ‘Cats’ on Broadway. Photo by Matthew Murphy.