Actors in CATS are wearing costumes designed by Oakland designer Chris Weiland, and constructed in-house. Top, Todd Schlader*; Center L to R, Megan Jaron, Mario Martinez, Amy Franklin Leonards; Bottom, Jetta Martin.

Woodminster Summer Musicals announced it will close its 46th season with the musical phenomenon CATS, running September 7-16 at Woodminster Amphitheater in Oakland’s Joaquin Miller Park.

CATS is an unusual musical in that the show is completely told through music, and there is virtually no spoken dialogue. This gives extra emphasis to the visual elements of the show: The set, a giant junkyard, designed by Gary Barten; the dance, especially the 10-minute Jellicle Ball sequence, choreographed by Jody Jaron; and the original cat costumes, designed and built by Christine Weiland.

Harriet Schlader, managing director, said “Most theaters like us would simply rent the costumes, and we do rent costumes for shows every summer. But we knew right away that we wanted to build our own for CATS. Our costume designer, Chris Weiland, is such a gifted artist — we knew she could create costumes that would be far better than anything we could rent. Plus, that let us spend production dollars locally. I’ve seen what she’s working on, and believe me, this show is going to look spectacular.”

Since the approximately 30 actors in the show need to be able to execute complex gymnastic and dance sequences, the costumes must be comfortable and very durable as well as visually dramatic. Weiland and her volunteer crew are painting feline detail on full-body leotards. The heads are built with fabric helmets and special yarn — over 10,000 pieces — that must be prepped and glued on strand by strand. The matching tails are created with the same yarn woven into braided fabric.

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Weiland estimates that it took about 135 hours to prepare the pieces of yarn to be glued, a process that started in April.

Between creating and mapping the headpieces, preparing the yarn, and affixing it to headpieces and tails, each cat costume requires about 10-12 hours of work.

WATCH: Video of CATS Makeup Class

San Francisco Bay Area Arts and CultureCATS

Woodminster Summer Musicals by Producers Associates, Inc.

WHERE: Woodminster Amphitheater in Joaquin Miller Park, 3300 Joaquin Miller Road, Oakland

WHEN: September 7-16, 2012

PERFORMANCES: September 7, 8, 14, 15 – 8 p.m. and September 9, 13, 16 – 7 p.m. (Thursdays and Sundays 7 p.m., Fridays and Saturdays 8 p.m.)

TICKETS:, $27-$56

PREVIEW PERFORMANCE: September 6, 8 p.m., All tickets $12 at the door.
Music by Andrew Lloyd Webber, Lyrics by T.S. Eliot, Trevor Nunn, Richard Stilgoe, Based on T.S. Eliot’s Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats. CATS is presented through exclusive arrangement with R & H Theatricals and The Useful Theatre Company Limited.

Rod Voltaire helps Amy Franklin Leonard adjust her colors to match her wig.
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