Cherry Hill native ready to tackle classic of American theater

Cherry Hill native Ethan Saviet is featured in the current national production of the musical “Cats,” which will run from June 18-30 at the Forrest Theater in Philadelphia. Saviet will play the role of ‘Skimbleshanks.’ (Photo credit: Carole Morganti/Special to the Sun)

Andrew Lloyd Webber’s iconic musical, “Cats,” will be returning to Philadelphia for the first time since 1999. Playing at the Forrest Theatre from June 18-30 for a limited engagement, it is part of a worldwide revival that will see the show performed until 2020 throughout North America and Asia.

First undertaken in London’s West End in 1981 and then on Broadway a year later, “Cats” is the stage adaptation of a 1939 T.S. Eliot work, “Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats,” a collection of poems that attempts to make sense of feline nature. 

Ethan Saviet is an alum of Woodcrest Elementary, Beck Middle School and Cherry Hill High School East (class of 2011), who will be performing the role of Skimbleshanks, also known as “The Railway Cat.” Although this is his first crack at one of the main characters in the production, the show itself is familiar territory. 

“‘Cats’ was actually my first professional job, while I was in college, doing Summer Stock. This is the third time I’m doing it. After my sophomore year, I did it at Merry-Go-Round Theater (in Auburn, N.Y., southwest of Syracuse), and the following summer did it at Pittsburgh’s Civic Light Opera and now I’m on the national tour,” he revealed to The Sun in a phone interview on June 5. 

Skimbleshanks is an orange male tabby whose job is to work on the night-time mail trains. The role is an ideal fit for someone with a baritone or tenor voice who also possesses classical training in dance. 

“It’s a nice balance of dancing with the ensemble and also having a number in the second half where I can sing – something not everyone gets to do,” Saviet said when asked what drew him to the role. “He’s one of the older cats in the tribe, so it’s a different perspective and experience to act that out as opposed to being a younger kitten which runs around in the ensemble.” 

The multi-faceted character is the summation of a range of experiences Saviet received thanks to interest in the arts from a young age. 

“I’ve always been involved in performing arts. I started at a dancing school in Marlton at the age of 8, and I’ve been going to different performing arts camps for my whole life. After high school, I enrolled in a BFA (bachelor’s of fine arts) program at Syracuse University. While there, during my senior year I did ‘Parade,’ ‘Sunday in the Park with George,’ and even ‘Batboy: The Musical,’ which despite its origins, turned out to be a quality piece of theater,” he explained. 

Regarding what draws him to the concept of musical theater, Saviet ruminated that he values the marriage of singing, dancing and acting to tell a story to connect with people. When all three are combined successfully, he related, as a performer one reaches a higher level of experience that can be more easily relatable to the audience. 

Relating to the audience is something Saviet should have no problem achieving; he admitted he already has a lot of friends and family interested in the Philadelphia run of the show and requesting tickets. 

For more information and to purchase tickets for “Cats” Philadelphia as well as future performances, visit: https://ustour.catsthemusical.com/tickets/, or call the Forrest at (800) 447-7400.