How to become a Jellicle Cat: 5 must-knows


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Inside South Australia was invited backstage of the Adelaide Festival Theatre to witness some serious makeup transformations that may put some of Youtube’s beauty bloggers to shame. Unless you’ve been laying (very) low, it’s likely you’ve heard some rave reviews of Cats the Musical. Let’s put aside the show’s much loved nostalgic song and dance repertoire for just a moment and take a microscope to Admetus’ make up routine.

Seasoned performer James Cooper spends just ten minutes transforming his youthful, fresh face to a living, breathing ginger feline figure of enviable proportions as Admetus. Here are James’ tricks to make his appearance on stage as believable and seamless as possible.


The cast of Cats are initially taught step by step how to apply their makeup. With 12 years in musical theatre, (and a substantial proportion spent with Cat’s the Musical) it’s safe to say the transformation into Admetus and Macavity now comes with ease for James. “We were taught how to apply the makeup and how to get it to stay on throughout the entire two and a half hour show … and how to change the make up to suit your face shape.”


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The show is over two hours long with intensive dance routines, there’s bound to be a little, or a lot, of perspiration. “We use Kryolan which is oil based. Some people use water based make up, but nearly all the boys use oil because we sweat a lot more. And then powder helps everything to stay on which is reapplied every time I come off stage.”

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Admetus is James’ character for 90% of the show. During the performance James must quickly morph himself into Macavity the Mystery Cat, a master criminal with a completely different make up look. The very short window of transformation must be done with precision so he can reappear on stage to lift Mister Mistoffelees. Just how short is this window? 10 minutes. “So if I don’t make it, it’s a big deal.” Luckily, James has a team of people who help dress him whilst he simultaneously applies his Macavity makeup.

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The wigs for each Cat are made from Yak hair. Although they might be durable the cast members don’t touch them. “Most people have a team of ‘wiggies’ to put them on for them. Once we’ve finished, we take them off, throw them in a pile and they get washed, blow-dried and set again.”



Cats is renowned for its high energy acrobatic dance moves, so you may be wondering how the wigs stay on? It’s no glamorous feat and likely a headache to remove. “With bobby pins and glue. The wigs are glued down to the sides of your face on top of the head piece. You hook the pins through the wig and into the head piece so you have a strong anchor point.”

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James before, make up free



James as Admetus on the right


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