Can you imagine making your Broadway debut in CATS—one of musical theatre history’s most groundbreaking dance productions? Well, that dream recently came true for Emily Grace Kersey, who just last month got the magical phone call saying she booked the role of Cassandra, had just two weeks to rehearse, and joined the Broadway company at the Neil Simon Theatre on West 52nd Street. Amidst her first month of performances, Emily squeezed in a quick interview with Jo & Jax, recounting her whirlwind experience from audition to Broadway stage.
Where did you grow up and begin dancing?
I grew up in Williamsburg, Virginia and started dance classes when I was only three.
When did you first see CATS and what was your reaction to the show?
I saw the tour of CATS when I was 8 years old. I was obsessed! Cassandra, “the brown cat”, was my favorite (and she’s the one I play on Broadway)! I did a puppet show revue of the musical for my second-grade class the next week…yea, obsessed!
How long did you have to learn your track? What was exciting and what were the challenges?
I had exactly two weeks from my first music rehearsal to my “put-in” rehearsal (a rehearsal on stage with the rest of the cast), to learn the entire show. It was a whirlwind experience. The most exciting part of being in this show is that I get to make my Broadway debut in a musical where the dance/movement tells just as much of the story as the music does. It’s so rewarding to get to do a show where you are physically spent by the end. You get to leave every part of you on that stage because you physically tell the story. As far as challenges go, I think the magnitude of material and information was one of the biggest challenges. There is so much to explore and layer in even after you learn the show.
How is dancing like a “cat” different than how you normally dance?
Dancing like a “cat” is so fun and challenging! My cat, Cassandra, is very graceful and lifted but also reacts (like any cat would) to any sense of uncertainty or danger. It was difficult for me to incorporate those sudden moments of tension while still being that elegant and aloof type of feline.
What does it feel like to make your Broadway debut in one of history’s greatest dance shows?
It’s honestly such an honor to be making my debut in this show! It’s incredible to be a part of something that has such a following and across so many generations. And the fact that I’m making my debut in a role that I looked up to as a kid is simply magical.
What makes CATS such a memorable show for audiences and dancers alike?
I think CATS is so memorable for audiences because it’s such a spectacle. You have cats running up and down the aisles, dancing their hearts out. Everywhere you look there’s something happening, whether the set or the lights or the cats themselves interacting. For dancers, CATS was one of the earlier musical theatre shows where dance took the leading role in telling the story. It helped pave the way for shows like CONTACT and MOVIN’ OUT.