He's the Mick Jagger of the Jellicle tribe. He's a fickle feline who'd rather have a grouse if you offer him a pheasant. He's Rum Tum Tugger — and he's been given the rock star treatment by triple threat Tyler Hanes since the revival of Andrew Lloyd Webber's Cats opened on Broadway in the summer of 2016.
The musical, which ran for a record-breaking 18 years its first time around, plays its final performance at the Neil Simon Theatre on December 30. That means Hanes has only a few more jaunts around the junkyard in his skin-tight body suit and unwieldy fur collar, which, despite some costuming snafus, have marked a joyful era in his performance career. He may never beat Grizabella to the Heaviside Layer, but, he's pledged his faith to the fraternity of Rum Tum Tuggers — and that bond of brotherhood is now and forever.
1. What is your favorite line that you get to say or sing?
The monologue that I say leading into "Mr. Mistoffelees" has always been my favorite. It changes every night and it is a moment of complete freedom. This monologue has really taught me how to be present, honest, and to trust my instincts. I always have a strong point of view before I begin, but it takes on a life of its own once I get going.
2. Everyone loves inside jokes. What is the best one from your show?
At Cats, there is a lot of behind-the-scenes buffoonery that happens. One of my favorite inside jokes happens between me and Sara Jean Ford (Jellylorum) during "Mr. Mistoffelees." We have been best friends since our freshman year at Carnegie Mellon University and a lot of the jokes that were created there have made an appearance on the Neil Simon stage. But none have made quite the impression like "eughy." The word "eughy" was something that came about during Barbara Mackenzie-Wood's acting class. Eughy is jolly. Eughy is everything fluffy, squishy, lacey, and decadent. Basically, eughy is a way of life. During the dance break of "Mr. Mistoffelees," if you happen to look to the downstage right corner, Jellylorum and Tugger are singing a little jingle called "Eughy Baba" (Baba is one of the many nicknames Sara has for me). And it makes me feel so eughy every show.
3. Every show experiences technical difficulties. What was the worst technical difficulty experienced during your show and how was it handled?
I wear this massive fur collar and it has caused a lot of problems throughout the run. It tends to push my wig off or shed or give me neck problems. When I first put the costume on, my immediate reaction was to pop up the collar. It then became part of my character. In doing that, it pushes my wig up and off my head, ripping the hair out of the back of my head and leaving bald spots. We eventually figured out how to keep my wig on, my hair safe and my collar tamed but it still likes to be difficult from time to time.
4. What was the most "interesting" present someone gave you at the stage door?
The fans at Cats are incredible, and they have shown us so much love. I have received a lot of amazing art work and gifts from all over the world, and I am incredibly flattered that they take the time to be so thoughtful. One present that really stands out is a drawing done by Bethany Knight from Hamilton, Alabama. It's incredible. She is a truly gifted artist and everyone who sees the drawing she did of Tugger is blown away by it.
5. Who is the coolest person that came to see your show? (You can't say your family!)
Back in November of 2016, the producers invited Cats alumni from past productions of the show to our Sunday matinee. They held a brunch beforehand and it was really special meeting the company members that came before us and seeing the legacy that we were now a part of. The show that followed was one of the most electric experiences ever. They were so supportive and we never danced better. Meeting all of the previous Rum Tum Tuggers was pretty awesome. Terrence Mann had been to the show once before but really took me under his wing that day and made it a point to introduce me to all the Tuggers that were present. It kind of made me feel like I was being inducted into some sort of Rum Tum Tugger fraternity.
6. What's the weirdest place you've had to go dressed like a cat?
Getting a flu shot at the Actors Fund clinic was pretty weird.
7. How long did it take you to get into costume and makeup at the beginning of the run and how long does it take you now?
During the early stages of Cats, I was a mess. I had never done makeup like this before and it took me over an hour and a half to get into makeup. Thankfully, I have managed to get the makeup process down to 30 minutes. I enjoy it because getting into the makeup also helps me get into the world.
8. We know a lot about Rum Tum Tugger from his eponymous song, but we'd like to know more about you. Could you agree with, disagree with, or qualify the following three lines from "The Rum Tum Tugger" as they apply to yourself?
— "As soon as I'm at home, then I'd like to get about": Disagree. As soon as I'm home, I like to stay in and relax. I'm very much a homebody and love spending time at home with my partner Van and my two cats, Annabelle and Chimbley.
— "If you offer me fish, then I always want a feast": Agree. I never seem to get full on fish. Especially raw fish (sushi and sashimi). After having sushi, I usually go for a second dinner to fill me up followed by dessert because I have a major sweet tooth.
— "The Rum Tum Tugger doesn't care for a cuddle": Disagree. I love to cuddle. I'm very cuddly. I'm a lover, not a fighter.
9. If you could steal one piece of the Cats set, what would it be?
The Jellicle moon.
10. If you could write any other animal a titular musical, what animal would it be and why?
Hmm. Well, I've been a frog in The Frogs and now a cat. Maybe a horse? It would be interesting to see what kind of choreography and music a horse would inspire.
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