Kristen Quartarone ’08 snags role in national tour of ‘Cats’

Kristen Quartarone
“Rumpleteazer and Mungojerrie were a notorious couple of cats, as knockabout clowns, quick change comedians, tight-rope walkers and acrobats,” goes the famous song sung by the mischievous duo in “Cats.” It is also the song RIC graduate Kristen Quartarone ’08 will be performing as she plays Rumpleteazer in 2009-10 national tour of “Cats.”

Beginning Sept. 21, she will train with cast members six days a week for eight hours a day. “Cats” is a production with no spoken lines, just “a ton of choreography,” said Quartarone. The cast is made up of many returning performers that worked in last year’s show, meaning the two-week rehearsal time is significantly shorter than usual. As Rumpleteazer, she will be on stage for nearly the entire two-and-a-half hour production.

Bill Wilson, professor of theatre, expressed his confidence in Quartarone’s abilities. “Kristen is a triple threat. She excels at singing, dancing and acting. That’s why she got the role she did in ‘Cats.’”

At RIC, Quartarone was a prominent member of the musical theatre program. She starred as Lola in “Damn Yankees,” Nurse Diesel in “One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest,” Lucille in “No, No, Nanette,” and Charity in “Sweet Charity.”

In addition to the intense footwork, partner cartwheels and duet with Mungojerrie, Rumpleteazer’s partner-in-crime, Quartarone will go through a make-up orientation.

“The make-up is intense and detailed. Each cat has a specific and exact way of doing the make-up,” she explained. While on tour, Quartarone will be responsible for perfecting her character’s cat qualities.

The national tour of “Cats” will be staged throughout the U.S. and in parts of Canada.

“I love that I’m getting paid to do what I love,” she said. “I am so excited about the whole experience; the two weeks of rehearsal, touring on the bus, living in and out of hotels, and going to different theatres and performing on different stages where so many famous performers stood before me.”

Quartarone plays Charity Hope Valentine in "Sweet Charity" during
her sophomore year at RIC.
Quartarone said she always knew she wanted to perform. She began dancing at age two-and-a-half, and from first grade through middle school, she sang in the church choir. In high school she joined the chorus ensemble. When she was 12, Quartarone’s aunt clipped a casting call from the newspaper and encouraged her to audition. Her first role was Tessie, an orphan in the musical “Annie,” at Fiddlehead Theatre in Norwood, Mass.

From then on, Quartarone immersed herself in music, dance and theatre. While at King Philip High School in Wrentham, Mass., she appeared in three or four musicals annually for The Orpheum in Foxboro, Mass., in addition to the plays performed by her high school drama club, such as “Turn of the Screw,” “A Christmas Carol,” and “Yes, Virginia There is a Santa Claus.”

In pursuit of a musical theatre major, Quartarone searched all over for schools in New England. At the suggestion of her drama club theater director and RIC alum, Joseph Ferreira ’87, she looked into attending Rhode Island College.

Quartarone said she watched RIC students perform the musical “Tommy” and thought they did a “fantastic” job. “I toured the school and fell in love with it,” she said.

Looking back, Quartarone recalled that playing Charity in “Sweet Charity” during her sophomore year at RIC was a “life-changing role because it was the first time I had such a big part.”

Theatre classes with Wilson and dance classes with Angelica Vessella prepared her for a major part in a musical. “They helped me out and worked with me a lot. When I auditioned for Charity, they supported me entirely. They took a chance on me even though they hadn’t seen me do anything. Working with Bill and [Angelica] was the best thing that could have happened to me. I wouldn’t be where I am today without them.”

“Kristen faced challenges like any other student, but she always approached any challenge with hard work, passion, dedication and persistence,” Wilson said.

After college, Quartarone worked at Theatre By The Sea in Matunuck, starring in her first professional performance as Josie in “George M!” Adding to the thrill of performing with the national tour of “Cats,” Quartarone recently found out that she will be performing with her good friend Brian Bailey from Theatre By The Sea, who will play Mungojerrie.

Quartarone also spent six months after graduation performing on a cruise ship as a dancer in themed productions such as “Hit the Deck,” a show about cruise life, for Holland America Lines.

Quartarone has dreams of being on Broadway. “It is the best thing for a musical theatre major to do and I am trying to work my way up there. The national tour of ‘Cats’ is a huge step up, and one step closer to Broadway,” she said. Quartarone said her dream role would be to play Glinda in the musical “Wicked.”

Her advice to those in pursuit of a musical theatre career: “Take a lot of acting classes, keep up with vocal instruction…and constantly audition, audition, audition!” said Quartarone. “It always helped me to know that the people behind the desk want you to be the role they are trying to fill.”

The national tour of “Cats” will be coming to Boston in April 2010.