June 8 2011 12:00 AM

’Cats’ tour keeps actress Ashley Travis on the go


In real life, cats are not generally known for being
particularly active. But if you’re in “Cats,” you always have to be fast
on your feet.

Ask Ashley Travis, a 2010 Western Michigan University
graduate who is one of the “swing” performers on the current national
tour. Typically, Travis hits the stage when one of the regular cast
members has to take time off. Sometimes, that can mean going to work
midway through a performance.

"If someone goes out, we have eight minutes to get into
makeup and hair and go on," the 23-year-old Tecumseh native said in a
phone interview. But Travis admits that can be quite exciting.

"There’s no other feeling like it that I’ve ever
experienced,” she said. “They’re gonna toss you on the stage with some
sort of makeup on, and you’re probably not gonna look perfect. But
hopefully the audience doesn’t know there’s been a switch. My job is to
make sure there are as few holes in the show as possible."

Travis’ chances of getting into the act are generally good
since she covers six feline characters: Demeter, Bombalurina,
Rumpelteazer, Cassandra, Sillabub and Jennyanydots.

Sometimes Travis knows in advance what she’ll be doing.
For instance, she’s already scheduled to play Sillabub at the Saturday
matinee at the Wharton Center.

Most of the time, though, she has to roll with whatever
the gods of theater hand her. She’s even had the experience of stepping
in for two different Cats in the course of one performance.

"One show, I was on stage as Syllabub, and I had to cover
because our Rumpelteazer went out," Travis said. "(Rumpelteazer) had a
solo, and I did it.

"I love doing that: It’s kind of like being a superhero in
the show, and the audience doesn’t even know most of the time. But
that’s fine with me — I get to sneak out the back door."

Wharton Center
8 p.m. Friday, June 10; 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. Saturday, June 11