Lisa Condit spoke with Zach Bravo about CATS, his career, the characters and more. Read on for highlights from the interview, or listen to the full interview below. Then tune in to Talk of the Commonwealth with Hank Stolz on WCRN 830AM Fridays at 9 AM and Saturdays at 1 PM for more behind-the-scenes interviews.
Lisa: Thank you all for listening today, this is Lisa Condit with Behind the Scenes at The Hanover Theatre. I’m thrilled to bring you Zach Bravo, who is one of the stars of CATS, coming to the theatre March 3-6. Welcome, Zach!
Zach: Hey, Lisa! Thank you for having me.
Lisa: Absolutely. For those of you out there who love social media and TikTok, let me just get this right out of the way. You are going to want to look Zach up on TikTok because he has some very hysterical videos about getting ready for performances. Do you want to add to that, Zach?
Zach: Thank you so much! If anyone is inclined to want to watch the TikToks, you can find me at @ZachBravo. I started doing a lot of “Star Wars” related TikTok videos, but ever since I booked the national tour of CATS as the Rum Tum Tugger, I’ve been finding my niche with that. It’s gotten people to come see the show so hopefully if you see my videos, you’ll want to get a ticket.
Lisa: I know they’re going to want to see the show because first of all, CATS is one of those jewels of musicals. It won seven Tony Awards® including Best Musical, so if you haven’t seen CATS, you need to. I remember it was the first Broadway show I ever saw on Broadway with my family in New York City, very exciting experience. It’s the type of show that you want to share with other people who haven’t seen it, and chances are that if you’ve seen it, you love at least a few of the songs. There’s just nothing like some of those musical numbers that are performed during CATS. So, what got you into it? Tell us about how you landed this fantastic role.
Zach: It’s so funny, it tracks back all the way to when I was eight or nine years old. A family-friend of mine, she loves CATS to this day. She came up to me one day and she had the filmed stage version tape of CATS from 1998. She gave me a copy of it and was like, “You need to watch this. You need to really watch out for the Rum Tum Tugger because you’re going to play him one day.”
Zach: I’m a child and I’m like, “Okay, cool.” So, I watch it and I’m just amazed by it, really. I’m like, “Whoa, what’s going on here?” I definitely remember a lot of the iconic songs that are played throughout the show, “The Rum Tum Tugger” being one of them and of course, “Memory.” Skipping forward to 2021 around the summer, I get a call to come in and do an in-person audition. Granted, we were still at peak pandemic, so we were all wearing our masks and stuff. It was at a time where theater was very confident about coming back, so that included tours and all that. They called me in for the Rum Tum Tugger, I had been given the material that they wanted me to prepare and sometime later, I got the role.
Zach: Mind you, that whole process took a year and a half actually. I’m from New York City, and we were at the point where we were absolutely locked down and had to stay in our homes which had to have been around summer 2020. My agents said they were still trying to work remotely and there were still some things happening as far as trying to prepare for whenever theater would come back. Around early summer in 2020, I got this audition for Rum Tum Tugger, submitted it and didn’t hear from them for a very long time. A year and a half later, around May 2021, I get a call and in my head I’m like, “Oh, they actually watched the tapes. Okay, I’ll be there.” The rest is history, and I’m all over the world right now.
Lisa: So exciting, honestly! You have an interesting background, you attended the LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts, or the “Fame School” as you describe it.
Zach: I did!
Lisa: That’s an amazing experience. We do have a Conservatory that’s part of our organization, what would be some words of wisdom that you might give to people that are considering a career in the performing arts?
Zach: One thing that I definitely can share is that when you’re growing up in theater, you feel as if there’s this pressure to immediately book something. Trust me, I have felt that since high school, college and even now. I will say that you have time.
Take the time to hone your craft, find out who you are as a performer and try to find what makes you different in the room. Take time with that because you have time, and that’s all you have.Zach Bravo
Lisa: Those are really great words of wisdom, Zach. Time is one of those things that a lot of us fall into the trap of wanting to rush through things, especially when you’re talking about skill and expertise. It takes time, those 10,000 hours, right?
Zach: I’ll also say, do not beat yourself up by any means. If you’re trying to hit a high note and you don’t have it today, who knows? You might have it the next day. That’s when practice comes in. I feel like that’s already the winner right there. You are already capable of doing something that is within the performing ats, so take that in.
Lisa: Absolutely. I’m just curious because CATS has so many iconic numbers in it and it’s a very famous musical. It’s hard to imagine for people who are into musical theater that there are people who haven’t seen it, but there are! For people who haven’t seen CATS, how would you describe it and what’s your favorite number? It can be yours or it can be somebody else’s. You don’t need to give me just one, I don’t want to make you pick your favorite child. Talk to us about CATS as if we had never seen it before.
Zach: CATS to me is all about family and coming together as a tribe. There’s a bunch of cats out there who project themselves as who they are, they’re very confident in who they are, and they’re trying to prepare themselves to see if they are eligible to go through another Jellicle life through the Heaviside Layer. In a way, it’s kind of like a competition but it’s all with love and fun. There’s no real competitiveness to it, but I would say CATS is all about family. Like a family, there’s a lot of differences within the tribe. At the end of the day, we all learn to accept each other for who we are.
Lisa: How about your role? I know that you have a quick-change from Bill Bailey to Rum Tum Tugger.
Zach: I think that’s a really fun video for people to watch whether they’re on TikTok or not because that is really a crazy process, and I’m not the only one who goes through a quick-change like that! For Rum Tum Tugger, he is rock & roll. He brings a lot of spice into the mix, for sure. Throughout the storyline of the show, Munkustrap, who is the leader of the tribe and next-of-kin to Old Deuteronomy, tries to do everything right. He’s very much like, “Everything has to be right, everything has to be perfect for Old Deuteronomy to come so we can get through the night,” because it’s the new Jellicle year. Rum Tum Tugger says, “No! Let’s have fun a little bit,” and he causes a horrible muddle.
Zach: As Rum Tum Tugger says in his own feature, to remind the cats and the audience, it’s okay to not always be by the books and you can have a little fun. That is the true epitome of Rum Tum Tugger, just fun. It’s very easy to see Rum Tum Tugger as a jerk, but he’s really not. He’s just really in-tune with who he is, he knows himself very well. He makes it very known that the cats and the audience knows who he is, and he definitely does that with a lot of success after his number.
Lisa: By the way, did you know that February is Cat Health Month? I’m mentioning this because we also have a sponsor for this particular run with Country Bank and we’re working with a local animal shelter, Worcester Animal Rescue League. So, I want people to keep an eye out on our social media channels because we have some very fun promotions and really great things we’re doing with the community and Worcester Animal Rescue League, thanks to the generosity of Country Bank. February being Cat Health Month is helping us get ready for the run of CATS at The Hanover Theatre from Thursday, March 3 through Sunday, March 6. We still have some great seats on our website, TheHanoverTheatre.org or by phone at 877.571.SHOW (7469.)