My sixth-grade English teacher was obsessed with Cats. Too young to dispute, we studied that Andrew Lloyd Webber musical with the kind of scrutiny we generally reserved for the bathroom mirror. We listened to Cats, memorized Cats, even performed our own Cats--which, thankfully, transpired before the ubiquity of the video camera. This was back in 1986, when an undying love for Cats didn't seem quite so prosaic and, well, gay. Instead, it seemed arty and exciting, and I could not have been the only 11-year-old who danced in her bedroom to "Macavity" or whose tear ducts surrendered upon every repeated play of "Memory." The conceit of the musical--so handily summarized by David Letterman as "them singin' kitties!"--seems perfectly absurd as an adult. But as a child with a soft spot for fuzzy things that moved, I adored the idea that cats had a secret, invisible life. These cats didn't just sleep in the sun and tear up cardboard boxes--they danced and hit a high C. And what child wouldn't warm to the suggestion that good cats don't die--they simply go to a special kitty heaven in the sky? Since those innocent days of 1986, of course, Cats has practically become a punch line for the bloated oeuvre of Sir Lloyd Webber. And yet, there is a lovely naïveté about Cats; unlike more recent Broadway smashes, from Rent to Avenue Q, Cats boasts no irony, no postmodern cleverness about itself. It is, simply, a musical with good dancing, catchy songs and a happy ending for all. There's only one thing to say about that: Meeeoow. Casa Mañana presents Cats from January 18 through January 23 at Bass Performance Hall, 525 Commerce St., Fort Worth. Call 817-332-2272. --Sarah Hepola
Free the Family
If there's one thing that can bring an estranged family together, it's a trip to an abandoned theme park. Just imagine it: Three siblings--a Greek scholar, a painter of clowns and a survivalist--get to spend hours together sharing...with no lines and no waiting. They can gleefully communicate their past dismay and shame while whimsically sauntering through empty turnstiles. Echo Theatre will show us if dysfunctional sibs can really come together in Freedomland by Amy Freed, running Thursday through January 29 on Thursdays through Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 5 p.m. at the Bath House Cultural Center, 521 E. Lawther Drive. The production is rated R. Tickets are $10 to $15 with pay-what-you-will prices on Thursdays. Call 214-904-0500. --Merritt Martin
Crack the Case
We all know that Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall and fell. But in the Starlight Theatre's version of the nursery rhyme, he also disappears. There is nothing left for all the king's horses and all the king's men to put together again--not even a yolk-stained smudge in a leading direction. Everyone's a suspect. Was it Henny Penny, the paranoid chicken; Peter, the garden-vandal rabbit or the always contrary Mary? Humpty Dumpty Is Missing! or the Mysterious Case of the Fallen Egg follows a private investigator and his Dallas sidekick searching for the culprit who contributed to Dumpty's demise. Humpty Dumpty Is Missing! runs from January 13 through January 17 at Starlight Performing Arts Theatre, 201 S. Ector Drive, Euless. Call 817-508-9101 or visit www.starlightperformingarts.org. --Stephanie Durham
Happily Ever After
Marry an old rich man and you could end up battling over his estate while the nation watches you slur through life in tacky clothes on your own reality show. Tempting, eh? If we must wed wealth, we'd rather do it in England where it comes with a gothic mansion, a staff of servants and jodhpurs. Plus, if you're the new Mrs. De Winter, the nameless narrator of Rebecca, you get a psychotic housekeeper, a distant husband and the chance to live a life overshadowed by the tragic (and somewhat suspicious) death of his beautiful first wife. Can secrets, jealousy and murder accusations make for a happy marriage? Don't ask Anna Nicole; just head to Garland Civic Theatre's production of Daphne du Maurier's Rebecca, directed by Kyle McClaran. The play runs Thursday through Saturday, January 13 through January 30, at Granville Arts Center, 300 N. Fifth St., Garland. Tickets are $19 to $22. Call 972-205-2790. --Michelle Martinez
I was an abysmal trumpet player. The desire to excel at something--anything, really--during my formative years was imperative, but, because of an absence of natural ability and self-discipline, the horn's atonal bleeps and blurts (fortunately for those within hearing) ended at age 12. Since identification is the first step toward recovery, there's hope that instead of knee-jerk jealousy I'll appreciate the regimen this Tuesday evening when the Dallas Wind Symphony joins the Greater Dallas Youth Orchestra (several dozen high school-age musicians) for A Wealth of Winds. The Morton H. Meyerson Symphony Center is host to the 8 p.m. event, which features carefully selected individual performances from both groups, as well as a collaborative effort on the 1924 piece Pines of Rome. A presentation on the evening's music precedes the concert. The Morton H. Meyerson Symphony Center is at 2301 Flora St. Tickets are $14 to $43; call 214-528-5526. --Matt Hursh
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